New Lying Study Disproves Theory That Eye Movements Reveal Deception

A new study has looked at the idea lies are revealed through facial ‘tells’ such as directing eyes in a certain way, and discovered that some ideas about cues betraying a deception may not actually bear out.

The idea that lying is detectable through facial cues is one that has been popularized by the practice of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), but researchers say that theories about eye direction don’t jive with research they’ve done in three separate studies.

Researchers in the United Kingdom looked at three studies to determine whether the specific idea that eye movements revealed lying proved to be accurate, finding in all three studies that the NLP theories floating around since the 1970’s aren’t all that accurate.

Per the Huffington Post, the first study included 32 people, the second had 25 participants, and the third had a group of 52 people. In the first, subjects were ” equally likely to glance upward and to the right and upward and to the left, regardless of whether they were lying or telling the truth.”

In the second, those seeking cues were recorded observing participants to see if they were able to detect eye movements, and thus, lying. The researchers determined being told about the eye movement theory made participants no more likely to detect lying.

In the third study, researchers examined videos of families of missing persons who had later been discovered to be engaging in deception or truthful — and they were unable to determine which were which based solely on facial cues such as eye movements.

In a press release, co-author Carolyn Watt of the University of Edinburgh commented:

“Our research provides no support for the idea [that certain eye movements are a sign of lying] and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit.”

The research was published in the medical journal PLoS One.