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Lie-telling myth busted - Eye movements have no correlation to telling lies

Saturday, July 21, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: eye movements, lies, myth

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(NaturalNews) Have you ever heard someone say they thought someone else was lying because they could "see it in their eyes?" As it turns out, that's completely bunk, according to a new study in which researchers say there is no correlation between fibbing and eye movement.

For years experts have said they could determine whether or not someone was being truthful simply by watching their eyes. The belief was that people will subconsciously look to the left when they are being honest but look to the right when they are lying.

Now; however, researchers say that could be the biggest lie of all, due to the results of a new study which found no correlation between honesty and eye movement.

"Despite widespread belief in this claim, no previous research has examined its validity," says an abstract of the study, which was published in PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed science journal.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist with Britain's University of Hertfordshire, led a study recently in which participants were asked to either lie or tell the truth about something in front of a camera.

'No support for the idea'

A second group was then asked to watch the first group and try to determine who was lying.

In a second study, Wiseman and his team gave participants instructions on neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP - the field of science that initially linked lying and eye movement.

In both instances, subjects could not figure out who was being honest and who wasn't.

"The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements," Wiseman wrote. "The second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills."

"A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organizational training courses," said Dr. Caroline Watt, who co-authored the study. "Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit."

The study noted that while "psychologists have carried out a great deal of research in an attempt to establish the behavioral correlates of lying... despite this impressive catalog of work, no previous research has properly examined the validity of a notion that has received widespread acceptance among the public, namely that liars tend to exhibit a particular pattern of eye movement."

The 'eyes' don't have it

The findings are "in line with findings from a considerable amount of previous work showing that facial clues (including eye movements) are poor indicators of deception," the authors wrote.

Howard Ehrlichman, a professor emeritus of psychology at Queens College of the City University of New York, has done extensive research on eye movements. He told ABC News he also has never found a link between eye movement and truth-telling, but added that didn't mean there was nothing at all to learn from the phenomenon.

"This does not mean that the eyes don't tell us anything about what people are thinking," he said. "I found that while the direction of eye movements wasn't related to anything, whether people actually made eye movements or not was related to aspects of things going on in their mind."

He said that, according to his research, people tend to make eye movements when they are retrieving something from long-term memory, and that on average people make eye movements about once per second.

"If there's no eye movement during a television interview, I'm convinced that the person has rehearsed or repeated what they are going to say many times and don't have to search for the answer in their long-term memories," he said.

Sources:

http://www.cbsnews.com

http://www.plosone.org

http://abcnews.go.com

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