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Eye Movements Do Not Reveal Lying

Multiple tests of eye-movement direction and honesty found no correlation between lying and eye direction. Steve Mirsky reports

The eyes are the windows to the soul. As such they can reveal if someone is lying, right? Cop shows, advice shows, even some organizational training courses hold that if somebody looks up and to the right, they’re probably lying. Up and to the left means they’re telling the truth.

Now a study says that there is no connection between eye movement and lying. The work is in the journal Public Library of Science ONE. [Richard Wiseman et al., "The Eyes Don't Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming"]

Researchers tested eye movement and honesty in multiple ways. For example, they tracked the eye movements of subjects who were lying or telling the truth about things they had recently done. There was no correlation between lying and eye direction.

The researchers also closely analyzed 52 archived news videos of real people making a public plea for the safe return of a missing relative. In half the videos the plea was sincere—but in half there was strong evidence that the speaker was involved in the crime. Again, no eye-movement clue was evident. So when judging the honesty of a speaker, remember: the eyes do not have it.

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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