I was recently asked on Quora: Is gulping a sign of lying?
For reasons best known to themselves, the Quora mods deleted my answer.
But I’m not gonna let it go to waste 😉
This is such a good question – thank you for asking me 🥰
Non-verbal cues are everything when sniffing out deception, but the mistake is to take one in isolation. Typically, a person attempting to BS you will exhibit a cluster of behaviours to watch out for.
Yes, gulping is a sign of lying, as is coughing, throat-clearing, nose-scratching and covering the mouth. The latter is an unconscious attempt to stifle the lie while the former are bodily responses to an adrenaline surge.
Interestingly, liars often unconsciously give themselves away with what we call incongruent movements of the head. Put simply, they’re either shaking or nodding in contradiction to what’s coming out of the mouth. The same goes for the brief flit of emotion that crosses their face while the brain catches up. That, my friend, is a micro-expression and it speaks volumes about the liar’s state of mind. It’s almost like they want you to know, huh?
Posture and Blinking
Another thing to watch out for is posture. A liar will often angle themselves backwards in an unconscious attempt to create distance from the whopper they’re constructing. Rapid blinking can indicate a quick succession of thoughts as they construct a plausible response. Confusingly, so can slow blinks as the concentration required sends the brain into cognitive overload.
In reality, everyone has signature behaviours they exhibit as part of a stress response. The mistake is to automatically assume that response has been activated because they are being dishonest. So how do you know the difference?
Not An Exact Science
There is no foolproof method, you have to make an educated guess based on what you DO know. It’s a messy balance of probabilities depending on the situation.
One thing I can tell you. Should you ever be in a position where you know for certain a person is lying to your face, watch them like a hawk. The ways a person behaves when they are trying to convince you of a lie will be different to how they style it out when they think you’re unaware.
Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive…