5 Signs That a Politician Is Lying

Editor’s Note: This post is a Care2 favorite. It was originally published on September 21, 2012. Enjoy!

“How can you tell when a politician is lying? When his (or her) lips move.” That’s a tired old chestnut, but the truth is, whether assessing a candidate or a loved one you fear is cheating, human beings are pretty lousy at detecting deception.

Politicians can be especially tricky to catch since most of them have had so much practice. Between spin doctors, speech writers, media consultants, pr managers, sycophants and their own often monumental egos, those who would dine at the public trough are trained to stay on message and exude confidence, sincerity and trustworthiness. Perhaps more importantly, they develop a keen sense of what we, the citizenry, want to hear: we warm to positive messages and flinch from painful truths. And because so many of us are woefully ignorant about the details of the issues, we, like sheep, are easily led.

The best defense against a lie is knowledge. If your paramour insists that he was watching the Sunday game with his buds but you happened to catch a glimpse of him in the lobby of the boutique hotel where you’d had brunch, well, there you go, both metaphorically and probably literally. But apart from firsthand knowledge (or other reliable evidence) are there verbal and nonverbal clues that can give a liar away? As the debates, both presidential and congressional, loom, being able to employ your own personal bullshit detector could be most helpful. After all, we can’t rely on the occurrence of those covetable “misspeaks” or “off-the-cuff remarks” that reveal precisely what a politician is thinking — and trying to conceal.

Lying is harder than telling the truth. Lying is stressful. To be an effective liar requires that one rehearse and memorize detail rather than rely on memory. Because of the anxiety associated with lying and the perceived sense of the importance of the lie, the liar often will give him- or herself away. This is especially true of politicians since their lives can be exhaustingly busy and lies require energy and constant attention.

Experts tend to agree that none of the standard indicators is completely fool – or politician – proof. Some people are simply really good at lying. Many signs, such as the fleeting facial tics known as “micro-expressions,” are extremely difficult for a lay person to distinguish. When applying the following clues to uncover lies and liars, it’s good policy to temper hubris with modesty: understand that you might get it wrong. But careful use of them might help you get it right.

1. Notice eye contact.
It’s a myth that liars won’t or can’t make eye contact. However, look for unnatural eye contact: either the person is unable to maintain contact or s/he fixes you (or the camera) with a strained and aggressive stare.

2. Read body language.
Pay attention to such indicators as crossed arms or legs, slouching or tilting the head away: these can indicate the discomfort that accompanies lying.

3. Follow the eyes.
Many researchers posit that when the eyes look up and to the right (his or her right, not yours) this suggests that the part of the brain linked to the imagination is being triggered. Conversely, the eyes looking down and to the left might indicate the part of the brain linked to memory.

4. Look at the hands.
Often liars’ hands will speak eloquently of deception. Watch for clenched fists, covering the mouth or part of the face, rubbing the eyes, scratching on or behind the ear.

5. Pay attention to detail.
The person who offers too much detail, especially unasked, might be lying. Because the narrative of the lie is fabricated, the liar can often be tripped up by inconsistencies in the story, especially if the same questions are repeated after some time has passed.

Politicians’ lips always move and it’s not always lies that emanate. To truly become a lie detector, you need to arm yourself with information and intuition. But if you do notice someone’s pants on fire.
To read more about the signs of deception, check out these websites:




Photo credit: Peaco Todd

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 months ago

They all lie!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus5 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Mary B.
Mary B.6 months ago

One of the biggest lies is that government spending and running a deficit is a bad thing.
The government HAS to get money into the economy thru spending or direct funding of safety net programs or giving it to the Federal reserve banking system who are suposed to lend it to'job creaters'. That requires acquiring property,paying workers, buying resources.
The right wing would have us believe that the government can be run like a home budget which must be kept with in it's income flow. [austarity measures ] Everything from there is a diversonary stratagy to keep people stressed, blaming and fighting with each other. It keeps the money supply scarce for the purpose of manipulating the masses, while the wealthy are spending and wasting and acting like idiots. No more of this nonsense, let's bust this lie WIDE OPEN. The information is getting bigger by the day, tap into it at what ever level you can deal with.It's not even a matter of redistributing wealth as much as it is ensureing the working class base, the disabled, elderly and homeless have plenty to live on. No strings attatched.

Sara G.
Sara G.7 months ago

I'm another one who goes back to that first one. If their lips are moving....

Winn Adams
Winn Adams7 months ago

All they have to do is open their mouth and start talking. . . . .

David F.
David F.7 months ago

With so many socialist liberals admitting politicians are serial liars, why do they impetuously trust politicians with their wealth, pleading for more taxes and waste?

Sharon Tyson
sharon Tyson7 months ago

They are masters of the game! Knowledge is power.

ERIKA SOMLAI7 months ago

noted,thank you

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon7 months ago

#6 - He's breathing and talking.

Dt Nc
Dt Nc7 months ago

The five signs in this article is highly unreliable. These kind of profiling has been debunked by researchers. If a person practice enough and is fairly intelligent, you will never know when he or she is lying.