Thinking Like A Cop: How to Catch a Liar

While we’re not advising people to use anything we say here, and actually hit the streets like some comic book vigilante, we’re going to show what methods, techniques, courses, etc., it would take for anyone to think like a cop.

Our first topic will be on the ways to catch a liar, which is not only for official police use, but for any of us to employ every now and then, like finding out if your girl is cheating on you.

Catching a liar isn’t always that easy, but these tips should definitely get you on the right track.

Keep a look out for body language.

body language

This is probably the easiest place to start. Obviously, a liar could get fidgety or a little sweaty when being confronted, but there’s a lot more tell tale signs to look for.

Liars will most likely have stiff body movements and limit the use of their hands and arms. They’ll also keep their bodies close to themselves.

If a person keeps touching their face, mouth, or throat, they’re lying. This is also true if they constantly scratch their nose or their neck right behind the ears.

You can also detect a liar by their posture and gestures, such as the shrugging of their shoulders. Another thing to look out for is if the person will not make eye contact with you. Finally, check out submissive behavior, like a person putting their palms out when making a statement.

Watch their microexpressions.


This was discovered by psychologist Paul Ekman, and is apparently very accurate.

Just like watching a liar’s body language, keeping track of their facial expressions is just, if not more, important. The simplest way to detect a liar using their facial expressions is to catch phrases that don’t match the expression. For example, if your boss says that you did a good job, then flashes a look of displeasure, then you know he’s full of it. Another example is if your girl says “I love you,” while sporting a frown.

Another way a person’s face gives away their lie is timing between expressions, gestures, and words. If you buy your mom a present and she immediately declares “It’s perfect. I love it,” and smiles afterwards, she actually hates it.

Finally, pay attention if the person you are questioning is faking their facial expressions. You can spot a real smile from a fake one because a real smile will involve the whole face.

Listen to their verbal content and context.


A liar will most likely slip when telling a fib. Make sure to pay attention to every word they have to say. They are bound to start making inconsistencies in their stories, such as, changing who, where, when and what they were doing this past weekend. They’ll also probably forget some details to fill in the holes.

However, they will also use unnecessary details to prove their innocence. A liar is going to keep blabbering away because they’re uncomfortable with pauses and silence.

A liar will also take your question for their answer. For example, if you ask your friend “Dude, did you drink the last beer?” and his response is “No, I did not drink the last beer,” he drank the last beer.

Other ways a lair’s speech will catch them in the act is if they leave out pronouns, speak in a monotonous tone, their words are too softly spoken, their wording is garbled and if their grammar and syntax is off.

If you’re not sure if a person is lying, simply change the subject. A liar will return to the original topic to prove their innocence.

If a person is defensive.


We’ve all heard this before, a liar can get defensive.

If a person resists answering your questions, or gets all beefed up, when being asked something, they’re probably┬á lying. They may even try to turn the tables on you and accuse you of lying. When they do that, they’re trying to project their lie onto you.

The placement of objects.


Pay attention to the objects around a liar, not because they’ll bash you in the head with a lamp, but it’s another signal. They will place nearby objects, like a coffee mug or book, between the two of you.

In your eyes.

A lot has been discussed about the correlation between eye movement and lying, which is called Eye Accessing Clues, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. However, it’s not as black and white as an episode of Law & Order makes it out to be, and some even believe that it’s a farce.

Let’s just use this visual aid to get the gist of it.

Got it?


You also have to be aware if a person is right handed or left handed. A leftie would have the opposite eye directions. While controversial, and a bit tricky, learning about NLP could be a useful asset.

Since humans are so complex, and some are born to be pathological liars, there’s no bulletproof tactic in determining whether a person is lying or telling the truth. Using these methods, along with some old school intuition, can at least give you a better handle on the situation.

Leave a Comment

  1. Ben says:

    Hey, it's William Shatner (circa Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)!

  2. Freebie Link says:

    Hmm, a very interesting article. I'm gonna try some of these.

  3. Bob says:

    I totaly disagree with this. Mostly the body language part… being a very socialy awkward person myself I often do those things when talking to someone I'm uncomfortable around such as my teachers. I hope they don't read this or the'll all think I'm a liar. ­čÖé

    • Rosie says:

      They probably do. I have major gaps in my social skills, which makes me nervous around people I don't know well, and most people who don't know me well think I'm lying, even when a lie in such a situation would be absurd or even impossible.

      Once I read stuff like this, I understood what the problem was. Nothing I can do about it, since I just plain get fidgety, sweaty, defensive, soft-spoken, etc. when confronted with people, period.

  4. While this is an interesting starting point, I highly recommend that anybody truly interested in the topic of detecting deception to read Joe Navarro's "What Every Body Says", along with other more serious literature on body language and non-verbal communication. Some bits and pieces of this article are misleading and could easily lead to false readings.

  5. Bryan says:

    This article is b.s. I think you need to check your sources. You barely touch the surface of anything you mention.

  6. erth says:

    There are many studies that have shown that NLP is a load of bull.

  7. Making a concious effort to pay attention to body language really takes communication to another level with people for me. Many many people definitely don't realize what they're indicating by the way they move or carry themselves and it's a great insight into their emotional state of the moment.

    Defensiveness is also never good.

    The eye directions thing seems a little more debatable to me, but I think I'll try watching where people look for a week and see if it resembles the chart hehe.

    I've read some NLP stuff and it does seem pretty bogus, like embedding special keywords and stuff. Seems like someone would have to be hypnotized or half asleep for that stuff to really slip past them… But body language like this is pretty fundamental stuff that really is a subconcious means of expression for many people in my experience.

  8. Marcus says:

    that some useful info so i know when someones lieing, or when i have to lie LOL!

  9. ChnkyMnky says:

    Interesting, but… can't be too fun wondering if everyone around you is lying and unless they eventually come forward with the truth then you never really know except their eyes were moving in the wrong direction but you dont really know, besides talking with cops is soooo not fun because they are trained to be so suspicious and i don't want to spend any more time around that sort of mindset when i don't have to. I just think, don't try to think like a cop.

  10. Bhutatman says:

    Exactly. Looking for something like an eye movement would involve one of the supposed eye movements itself, and the wrong kind, so doesn't that skew the results in every instance of 'conditioned looking'? Only if you're looking with an open mind, ie: un-self-consciously, would you be able to see anything at all other than your own judgments, which are egotic.

  11. kroon78 says:

    I had to bookmark this page. There is no way i'm ever gonna memorize all this!

  12. joy l says:

    this is very wrong to say that people who do these things are hands down lying. I work with abusedkids and they are very shy. I also work with abused women, whose husbands, wuestions them, and question them, and correct them al the time..and they are nervous in coversations, and have a hard time trying to say what needs to be said and worrying the whole time if they will be verbally or in reality slapped in the face.. this article is bs. and, the whole thing about coming back to revisit an topic as a sure sign of lying is stupid as well. These abusive husbands so manpulate and scare their wives and kids that when these woman and kids get the courage and the dignigty back up through therapy or support, they DO revisit thesse topics to make the point that what they said was true. so irresponsible of this article and the author t be so flip and superficail.

    • Moddejunk says:

      couldn't agree more … this article is bs armchair science and written without explaining anything about the research these points might come from. This is an area of study which is does not have absolutes so to say "if this happens, they are liars" is ridiculous. There's probably more danger of people misusing the information here than actually learning anything from it.

      If the idea is to "think like a cop" then the focus should be on being unneccesarily macho and confrontational, making assumptions, making uninformed decisions, and stereotyping people. The idea that cops might actually use these techniques scares the crap out of me.

    • Patter says:

      I AM one of those women whose husband makes accusation after accusation. Many of the above "tells" are consistent with someone who is HONEST but just anxious about being accused, yet again. Most of these are no more reliable than a polygraph test (which, by the way, is only "slightly better than chance" according to the National Academy of Sciences). So don't assume you've caught a liar when someone shows such behavior. On the other hand, Dr. Ekman's studies on micro-expressions are something worth learning more about.

  13. Doc R says:

    One of the ways you can at least tell if someone is "excitable" is to watch the eyes. The Mueller's muscle is activated by they sympathetic nervous system (excited or sexually aroused, both), so the eyes open wider when someone is in an excitable state. Also, the pupils dilate with sympathetic tone.

    One has to take these in the context for which it is observed, and what is being said along with many other clues: sweating, rapid speech, etc.

    If a girl says she likes you, and has big eyes, with dilated pupils (not just because you're in a dark restaurant), that may be a sign of true attraction. Touching the hair is also a female signal of interest.

  14. HeHe says:

    All of these 'hints' can be misleading in many, many cases, and are basically only thought 'useful' people who have a hard time to THINK – e.g., cops.

  15. Lorne says:

    I think that the tenor of contemporary research is that police and judges are no more able to tell whether someone is lying than a layperson. Statistically, and YMMV.

    see L Re, “Oral v Written Evidence: The Myth of the ‘Impressive Witness’”
    (1983) 57 ALJ 679; Australian Law Reform Commission, Evidence (ALRC
    26) (1985), Canberra, AGPS, vol 1 at 452 and following

  16. Josh says:

    The author of this article did little to no fact-checking, and much of what is included here is either inaccurate or completely false.

    First of all, there is no objective way to tell if someone is lying without first establishing a base line. Many people display signs you claim are indicative of deception while telling the truth. Some people are fidgety when telling the truth, yet remain perfectly still while lying. Additionally, very few people maintain eye contact when speaking normally, but make more eye contact while lying, which is in direct opposition to what you wrote. Similarly, changing details in a story is more of an indicator of truth than a lie. Microexpressions weren't discovered by Paul Ekman, and a quick 'google' of the word reveals just as much. You should probably revise your article after checking these facts (and others) with some reputable sources.

    I hope I'm not the only person that appreciates the irony of a web article that supposedly reveals various methods of spotting lies and is itself one great big fib.

    • Cindy says:

      Thanks, Josh. I really didn't have time to write all that, but this article pretty much pegs every normal human being as a liar. People just don't act according to these rules.

  17. Mark says:

    I'm afraid the second paragraph is completely wrong. The 'tells' that are listed are not definitive signals of deception, they are signals showing possible 'stress'. This could be due to several factors, including the stress of being interviewed or questioned. People like Paul Eckman, Joe Navarra etc; all constantly emphasise the danger of labeling someone as a liar because of the traits listed in this paragraph.
    As Josh pointed out Paul Eckman did not 'discover' microexpressions, he has done a great deal of research in the field of microexpressions. I have received a great deal of training in the field of deceit detection & microexpressions, & this is one of those articles which is dangerous because some people will read it, take it as gospel, & brand some poor family member a liar & cause untold hurt; all because they believed a truely innaccurate piece cobbling together many myths & urban legends.

  18. David H says:

    I'm going to ask my girlfriend some questions later. If she does any of the above I'm going to beat her for lying to me. Thanks for giving me these sure-fire, 100% proof techniques that she is the lying little wh*re I think she is.

  19. Donla says:

    Do you suppose the press will start using this technique on Obama? Or will they look at TOTUS to see if it's adverting its eyes?

  20. JC says:

    Next time, if you are going to waste our time, at least cite your sources.

  21. jim says:

    Is this like graphology that was the rage 20-30 yrs back to look for personality clues in handwriting and probably recurs. In the 70's there was another concept called sanpaku that referred to the whites of the eyes and how people under stress show the whites below the pupils. This was used in interrogations to smoke out a guilty party from a group, but if you never heard about it, it must not have worked well enough to become widespread.

  22. cyberhobo says:

    Bogus. I can think of several recent, serious conversations where, while recalling info, I truthfully said things for which the Shatner chart would classify me as a liar.

    If you're around them long enough, all liars are eventually exposed. That's the easiest way to know if someone is lying: to know if they've got a track record of it. If they do, and you suspect, they probably are.

  23. e cigarette says:

    Dude man this is friggin hilarious!

  24. This story is ridiculous! No sources cited, probably none used. Sounds like it was written on speculation, not facts.

  25. amog says:

    Pretty sure there's more than a few sources in here people.

  26. Elly says:

    Great info…but like alot of things that can be proven with one case, this is not a definite. I really have to give this article however, a 5 star compared to the other duplicated non-sense that seems to be filling the internet every second.

  27. mike (visitor) says:

    captain kirk (above) never lies right dr spock? more lithium crystal?

    nod alot and wink it gets em everytime

  28. girlygirl says:

    so if your trying to see if a guy has alot of spendable dough….. if he looks to the left hes lieing but to the right its true…… that aspect, just by memmory and feeling, i might think its true for that reason, awsome thanks for the insight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lie lie lie or tell me the truth times 10, i still know if your boke or have a bit for ME!

  29. Neil Kornswiet says:

    Is this like graphology that was the rage 20-30 yrs back to look for personality clues in handwriting and probably recurs. In the 70's there was another concept called sanpaku that referred to the whites of the eyes and how people under stress show the whites below the pupils.

  30. outdoor sunbrella says:

    article is amazing. the photo of tracks of railways with the couple sitting on them was really very sweet.

  31. How to Catch a Liar – this sounds interesting.

  32. cute pics shown above. loved them a lot. thanks for sharing.

  33. candy says:

    i think my boyfriend is a pathological lier, and determine to catch him in his own lies.

  34. vince hooverwatser says:

    that should be hard if he lies a lot. look for if he changes in any way when saying facts and if he acts normal under stress

  35. AC Doyle says:

    Try this it works much better, 25+ years of Technology is on your side