Humans can do a lot of things. We can have access to a world of information in the palm of our hands yet choose to use the tech to watch videos of dogs being dressed in tutus, or we can build machines that will bring us one step closer to unwinding the mysteries of the universe. But one thing that we absolutely cannot do is be genetically equipped with a lie detector that can help us sort out the fibs from the truth.
But this new technique, suggested by the researchers over at the University of Amsterdam, can bring us very close to developing an in-built lie detector.
According to the study, this one strategy can reveal if someone is lying with nearly 80 percent accuracy. All you need to do is ignore everything except the level of detail in a person’s story.
Bruno Verschuere, the lead author of the study, writes that detecting a lie can be an “impossible task”.
“People can’t assess all those signals in a short time, let alone integrate multiple signals into an accurate and truthful judgment,” he writes. There are several factors in play, including our stereotypes and preconceived notions. This is why the researchers came up with a “radical alternative” to catch your partner, or anyone for that matter, in a lie.
“We reasoned the truth may be found in simplicity and we propose to drop rather than add cues when trying to detect deception.”
The researchers instructed participants to focus on only one clue: The level of details in the story and ignore everything else.
If the person skims over the details, as opposed to providing rich descriptions of who, what, when, and how, they’re likely to be lying to you.
Over a series of nine studies, 1,445 people were asked to guess whether handwritten statements, video transcripts, interviews, or live interviews about students’ activities on the University’s campus were true or false.
The participants who relied on intuition to detect lies or used multiple factors to make the decision performed no better than random chance. But those who focussed solely on the level of detail could accurately detect the lies with 59-79 percent accuracy.
These participants were told to pay closer attention to “the degree to which the message includes details such as descriptions of people, places, actions, objects, events, and the timing of events,” and “the degree to which the message seemed complete, concrete, striking, or rich in details.”
The research acknowledges that in high-stakes situations, it’s likely that people will enrich the lies with details to increase their credibility, so this technique needs to be context-dependent for it to work.
So the next time you suspect your partner is lying when they say they’re stuck in traffic and won’t be able to make it to your sister’s slam poetry reading, then you know what to do!