What lies behind lies? One polygraph expert shares his experience with them

Apr 1, 2023, 12:00 PM

Behind lies are an entire set of body movements you can't control....

Converus CEO Todd Mickelsen is reflected in employee Adam Johnson's eye at his Lehi office on Friday, April 22, 2022. Converus has designed a lie detector that measures bio-cognitive responses, such as changes in pupil diameter, eye movement, eye blinks, and fixations. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Can you spot when someone is lying? Can a lie show itself through body language? How do you know what’s going on behind lies?

Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic of Dave & Dujanovic speak with Todd Palmer, former FBI polygraph examiner, as they dive into what is behind a lie and how to know when someone is lying by what they say and even the body language they present.



What is the motivation behind lies?

“Why, in your view, in your experience, would he tells so many lies?” Dujanovic asked. “Does that go to the personal-gain issue?”

“Absolutely,” responded Palmer. “I think some people get lost in their own story to the point that they repetitively say things to ingratiate themselves with others to make themselves look better. So not only do you have to look at what is a lie, but what is the motivation behind the lie?”

Palmer said some people are good at projecting a certain image that other people will believe.

“As humans, we like to believe the information that’s coming into us. And if we get some kind of assertion that that information is credible, we don’t even check it,” he said.

Who did you really know?

“Is there any way at all that the general public, people who’ve never sat on a polygraph exam before or sat in an interrogation room with a suspect, could tell that somebody is lying?” Dujanovic asked.

Palmer said if you know someone well, you may tell when that person is lying because you are familiar with their personal behavior or a baseline of how that individual normally speaks acts and gestures.

“Think of all the times in your life where you said, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this person did that. This person is so good’,” he said. “I’m a little jaded, and I’m a little biased. When I hear that statement, I always say, ‘No, you now finally got to see that person for who they really are’. You accepted what this person said as gospel because you never looked behind that magic curtain. You never looked behind to see who this person really was.”

Non-verbal language

“Are there certain things we do with our body language that could indicate we’re not being truthful?” Dujanovic asked. 

“In my opinion, and I’ve seen over the years, when your body’s trying to dump stress, it does weird things. People will move in ways that don’t appear to be normal.

“You can ask them to hold still, and they can’t now. Some people are just fidgety. But if you’re asking a person, ‘Hey, I need you to hold still for a minute’ or ‘Hey, stop doing this,’ and these behaviors still continue, perhaps their body is just trying to burn off that excess stress,” Palmer said.

But he said if someone says or does something that seems to be outside the norm for a given situation, it could be a clue that the person is lying. 

“None of us walk into the doctor’s office for an exam and say, ‘Hey, Doc, you look sexy today.’ That’s just absolutely outside the norm,” said Palmer. “If — whether it’s verbal behaviors or personal behaviors are outside the norm for the setting in which you’re meeting this person — you should probably start thinking this person is not necessarily going to be truthful.”

How to Tell If Someone Is Lying to You, According to Body Language Experts 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. 

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What lies behind lies? One polygraph expert shares his experience with them