A group of psychology researchers from Canada and the United Kingdom published research on July 11, 2012, in the open access peer reviewed journal Public Library of Science that drastically calls into question a common and accepted assumption about eye movement and lying.
Proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) claim that certain eye-movements are reliable indicators of lying. One of the concepts used by psychologists, sales trainers, salesmen, and law enforcement suggest that looking up to the left implies truth telling and looking up to the right indicates lying. The concept is widely accepted worldwide and may stem from folklore or myth.
The first scientific trial of this concept has shown no correlation between eye movement and lying.
Three separate trails of the supposed correlation between eye movement and truth telling produced no correlation between the Neuro-Linguistic Programming claims and reality.
Particularly interesting was the inability to detect lying in a press conference scenario. None of the trial observers were able to connect lying in filmed representations of known lying and truth telling regardless of the participants knowing about the eye movement concept. No correlation between eye movement and a lie detector test were found.
Based on this research psychologists, political pundits, news readers, law enforcement, school teachers, ministers, pastors, coaches, sales trainers, salesmen, and common folk have all been claiming a person is lying based on a false assumption that has no scientific merit.
The legal ramifications of this discovery may be monumental.
The researchers conclude that “This work is the first to experimentally test the claims made by NLP practitioners about lie detection. The results provide considerable grounds to be skeptical of the notion that the proposed patterns of eye-movements provide a reliable indicator of lying. As such, it would seem irresponsible for such practitioners to continue to encourage people to make important decisions on the basis of such claims.”
The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming
Richard Wiseman 1, Caroline Watt 2*, Leanne ten Brinke 3, Stephen Porter 3, Sara-Louise Couper 2, Calum Rankin 2
1 School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, 2 Psychology Department, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 3 Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada
Citation: Wiseman R, Watt C, ten Brinke L, Porter S, Couper S-L, et al. (2012) The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40259. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040259