We have all told a lie at least once in our lives. Whether we’ve been caught short on public transport without a ticket, or simply looked for a non-confrontational way to excuse ourselves from a gathering, lies are an unfortunate – but useful – part of our everyday lives. What kinds of lies do we tell most often, and is it obvious when we tell them?
Little White Lies
The vast majority of lies we tell people are ‘white lies’, or small, inconsequential lies that seek to find a polite resolution or to make a situation easier. White lies are societally distinct from full-bore lies, which can have real-world consequences for other people and institutions. A white lie might excuse someone from an event they have no desire attending; a real lie about the status of an overdue project could have material consequences.
The Most Common Lies We Tell
Contact lens providers Lenstore undertook a survey of 2,000 adults, to find out how commonplace lies were – and which were the most common lies told by Brits overall. According to the survey, the single most common lie was “saying you’re busy to avoid doing something/seeing someone”, with 38% of respondents indicating they had used that lie at least once.
The second-most common lie was “saying you’re not seen messages/emails when you actually have”, with just under a third of those surveyed admitting to using the lie. Third place went to “saying you’re OK/well when you aren’t”, with 27% of people lying about their health at least once.
Can You Spot A Liar?
But are there ways you can uncover untruths by looking at someone? Body language specialists and psychologists have sought to illustrate the various ways in which a liar might telegraph that they’re not being forthright – with the majority of useful information found in none other than the eyes. Alongside the above statistics, Lenstore also identified the five key ways in which a liar’s eyes might give them away:
While eye contact is often construed as a signifier of honesty, the opposite can often be true. Extended eye contact can be conspicuous and indicate that a lie is being told.
If a person speaking to you is fluttering their eyelids unusually and excessively, this may be a form of visual tic on their behalf, giving away a lie.
The same could also be said for ‘eye blocking’, or closing one’s eyes firmly and completely while speaking. The liar may be forming their words carefully, or simply distancing themselves from the untruth.
If not closing their eyes completely, liars may also squint. This can be read as a sign of discomfort or anxiety, which are prevailing emotions when attempting to tell a lie for personal benefit.