In the absence of such a handy system, of course, we have to rely on our own intuition and working knowledge of social cues. But, a new study conducted by researchers at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley suggests that we might be more equipped to spot a liar than we realize.
In the study, 72 participants were shown video interviews with several individuals who were suspected of stealing a number of $100 bills from the library. In reality, only a few of the "suspects" had actually taken any cash, but all were instructed to deny any involvement in the crime.
After showing each video, the researchers asked their subjects whether they thought the suspect in question was lying about his or her innocence. The responses were largely inaccurate: Individuals correctly identified the truth tellers only 48% of the time, while they were only able to sniff out the liars with 43% accuracy.
However, the subjects were also tested on their unconscious, instinctual response to each video using the Implicit Association Test, which asks people to associate words with pictures as quickly as possible in order to ascertain subjects' most honest, visceral reactions. The researchers found that individuals were more likely to unconsciously associate qualities like "dishonest" and "deceitful" with the suspects who were actually lying; conversely, words like "honest" and "truthful" were more likely to be assigned to the people who were telling the truth. In practical terms, the subjects' gut reactions were more accurate than the considered responses they gave to the researchers.
So, want to test out how good your gut is at spotting the liars among us? The New York Times has put together a quiz featuring a series of videos of different people answering simple questions about their background and past experiences; some are lying, some are not. Click here to try your luck, and remember — don't think too hard. You've got this. (ScienceDaily)