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Research Article

The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming

  • Richard Wiseman,

    Affiliation: School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

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  • Caroline Watt mail,

    caroline.watt@ed.ac.uk

    Affiliation: Psychology Department, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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  • Leanne ten Brinke,

    Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada

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  • Stephen Porter,

    Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada

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  • Sara-Louise Couper,

    Affiliation: Psychology Department, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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  • Calum Rankin

    Affiliation: Psychology Department, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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  • Published: July 11, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040259

Reader Comments (11)

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Eye movements and 'lying'

Posted by johncliff on 14 Jul 2012 at 15:43 GMT

This study is flawed on so many levels it can hardly be called ‘scientific’.

For a start, NLP teachings do NOT say looking to the right is an indication of lying. At the most, the eye movement indicates that a person is likely to be constructing a visual image, rather than remembering a specific event.

Ask a person to imagine their front door painted in red and green stripes, and they’ll most likely look up and to the right while they create the image in their minds.

Similarly, when a cop asks Lefty what he was doing last Thursday, and Lefty has to suddenly invent an alibi, he’ll most likely construct a series of images and, consequently look up and to the right.

Some NLP ‘experts’ (maybe they read a book on it once) have taken galloping liberties with this and decided it’s a sure indication of ‘lying’. And so the myth was propagated.

As for the study, in the first part, the people who lied were told to do so. They were prepared for this, and weren’t caught on the hop. No worries. The construct had already been made.

As for the videos of known liars (the murderers and abductors), it’s almost certain these people had rehearsed their stories prior to appearing on TV, and had no need to create a new visual construct.

Competing interests declared: Cerntified NLP Trainer and Master Practitioner

RE: Eye movements and 'lying'

SilentRob73 replied to johncliff on 16 Jul 2012 at 14:57 GMT

I have heard many similar criticisms of NLP and I welcome genuine scientific enquiry into the subject.

I have never heard any NLP practitioner claim that eye patterns can be used to detect lying. If I did I would be highly sceptical of that claim. The trainer delivering my NLP course went out of his way to explain that constructed responses were not necessarily indicative of a lie. Constructed responses could appear for a number of reasons and a well rehearsed 'lie' could be just as easily 'recalled'.

I am also interested to know why the majority of work I have seen looking into NLP focuses on eye patterns. Why is that? Eye patterns were just one small piece of my NLP training.

Competing interests declared: Certified NLP Practitioner

RE: Eye movements and 'lying'

stacybyars replied to johncliff on 08 Aug 2012 at 16:01 GMT

This is an interesting post but there is more to detecting lying than just eye movement. You have to watch body language, voice changes, and facial expressions.

No competing interests declared.