PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Don’t try lying to Pamela Meyer.
She’s known internationally as an expert deception detector. Her TED talk on the subject is super popular, and she’s written a book called “Liespotting.”
She also runs a company called Calibrate in Washington, D.C. which helps businesses root out lying and cut down on fraud.
“There’s lots of things we think people do when they’re lying that they don’t do,” said Meyer.
First, she says forget the idea that liars fidget. “They freeze, they don’t fidget.”
Also forget the idea they won’t look you in the eyes.
“You see this with teenagers in particular,” said Meyer. “You ask them a hard question, they stare you in the eyes just to appear authentic when in fact what they’re doing is showing that they’re lying.”
She says remember a truthful person only looks you in the eyes 60 percent of the time.
Meyer says one red flag is something called “Duping Delight.”
“It’s an unconscious delight with getting away with a big whopper, so they’ll be a slight smile when someone is actually telling you that lie,” said Meyer.
She says it starts young, and showed us a video online of a young girl grinning as she denies getting into the Nutella. Over and over, the girl says “no,” with a big smile on her face.
But the Nutella on her cheek gives her away, and Meyer says, so does the smile!
She points to video of President Bill Clinton talking about Monica Lewinsky to demonstrate something else.
In a rather well-known clip, President Clinton says: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!”
President Clinton clearly says “did not” rather than “didn’t.” But Meyer says avoiding contractions shows you’re over-determined in a denial.
She says liars sometimes grab barrier objects, like a pillow or a coat, to put between them and the person they’re lying to.
Ironically, sometimes they’ll say: “To tell you the truth” or “In all candor.”
And a suspect lying to police may actually point their feet toward the door, according Meyer and the research she cites. “People will lean towards the exit unconsciously.”
We asked her to watch video of an interview in a murder case most Pittsburghers will remember.
Donna Moonda was convicted in 2007 of hiring her lover to kill her husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda of Mercer County.
But before the conviction, she did an interview with KDKA-TV and claimed that a masked robber shot her husband after they had pulled over along the highway.
Meyer says someone lying can inadvertently give themselves away. “They say ‘yes’ and they’ll shake their head ‘no’ or they’ll say ‘no’ and nod their head ‘yes.'”
She finds a spot in the video where she believes Donna Moonda does just that.
“She’s saying that was the first time that I realized something was awry, but she’s shaking her head because she knew she was in the middle of a planned event,” Meyer says.
She also thinks she sees “Duping Delight,” a slight unconscious smile, as Moonda says she wasn’t sure what was happening.
Furthermore, she says Moonda makes another mistake by giving away far too much detail.
“Liars will give you an enormous amount of detail just to feel comfortable,” said Meyer.
She says if you want to trip up a liar, ask them to tell their story out of order.
“When we tell someone to tell their story backwards, that raises the cognitive load significantly,” said Meyer. As a result, she says people will give away both verbal and non-verbal clues.
Meyer warns that you should use all this information wisely. She says you don’t want to become the kid on the playground that yells out: “Liar, Liar!”
That’s because she says you can very easily get it wrong, if you don’t look at the whole picture. For instance, some people may smile all the time, whether they’re lying or not.
She says it’s important to establish a baseline to understand what people do as a normal habit while they speak.
Only then can you determine if some of the “tells” are out of character.
But she says if people exhibit some of the lying red flags, and they’re out of character, and it’s while they’re being questioned about something serious, then you may be dealing with someone who’s being less than honest.
Meyer has created an empire based on getting to the truth, so is she any good at telling a lie?
“Terrible. Really terrible at telling a lie,” said Meyer with a chuckle. “I make it my business to tell the truth because I know how easy it is now once you’re trained to figure out if someone’s lying.”