How to Catch a Liar


How to Catch a Liar

Once a day? Ten times a day? Yes, and statistically, more often. In fact, estimates reveal that during the course of a day it can happen as many as one hundred and even up to two hundred times! The tragedy of it is that most law enforcement officers have no idea it is happening, and yet it can have a tremendous and negative impact on reports and investigations. What is this elusive and antagonistic predator that entwines itself into the world of law enforcement mostly unscathed?

The lie.

Everyone lies. Fortunately, however, most lies are small and benign statements that have scant detrimental impact on much of anything. “I’m fine, officer” when the subject is clearly having a horrendous day. If lies of saving face and protecting someone’s feelings were the only lies we ever told or heard, perhaps we’d be just fine. But, of course, that is certainly not the case. Some lies cause substantial temporary and even long-term damage and can hinder an investigation. Lies during investigations of serious crimes such as robberies, assaults, major theft and homicides are even more detrimental.

Lies happen, they occur on a daily basis and most go unchecked and unnoticed and, therefore, unabated.

Knowing this, the apparent question is, “How is it possible for one to know if someone is lying?” and, as that question is being mulled in one’s head, images of subjecting those suspected individuals to a polygraph and also realizing that’s not feasible.


That’s true, it’s not feasible. The practicality of having everyone submit to a polygraph that you believe is lying to you is, indeed, the mathematical empty set! Simply not happening. However, there is an alternative and, depending on which school of thought one subscribes to, can be as reliable as a polygraph and can be used anytime, anywhere.

Individuals can learn to detect liars and the lies they tell by utilizing some of the very same skills used by law enforcement detectives. A lot of people believe they are pretty good at picking out lies and liars, but, unfortunately, studies have shown that the average person who has not received proper training to identify lies can only do so little over fifty percent of the time. Might as well just flip a coin. However, studies also show that someone who has been trained properly to ferret out lies can do so up to ninety percent of the time and without the need for a polygraph. No need to ask the person for permission, no forms to fill out, no searching for a polygraph operator, and no traveling for the polygraph assessment.

These techniques and indicators are used by police detectives including agents with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and many other law enforcement agencies and organizations.

This skill set utilizes both verbal and physical indicators, specific processes and techniques to help reveal untruths in statement told by others, and knowing how to ask the questions and how to properly read the resulting answer.

During the process, the individual using these methods properly, knows how to obtain a baseline and how to observe for the clustering of verbal/physical indicators and do so within the first six seconds of the answer.

Some of the verbal indicators include contraction omission, removal of proper nouns and using pronouns in their place, how they answer “No,” allusion, elusion, offensive vs defensive wording, mid-sentence shift, and verbal/physical disconnects.

Physical indicators can include base shifting, blading, eye shift, foot pointing, grooming, lip compression, behavioral pauses, and blinking rate.


Unfortunately, a good many people possess the errant belief that they can just learn one or two of these indicators and that’s all that they need to learn. This, however, is far, far from the truth and during my training sessions and seminars we delve into why this is woefully inadequate and solutions are presented and explained.

Learning to detect lies and the people who tell them is an easily learned skill-set that is both coveted and useful on the street, in investigations, and in our personal lives.

Steven David Lampley is a former twenty-one year career police officer and SVU detective. Some of the cases on which he worked have been seen on television networks as Investigation Discovery, TruTV, Discovery Channel, and FOX. Steven worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspector’s Service, Department of Justice’s United States Attorney’s Office, and Attorney General Troy King (Alabama 2006-2011).

Steven now speaks and trains corporations, colleges and universities, organizations, and groups across the country on the techniques and indicators of detecting lies. Steven recently spoke at CrimeCon 2018 to a sold out audience with standing room only with 850 seated and has been a guest on Crime Stories with Nancy Grace. Steven will be a keynote speaker at Harvard TEDx in November 2018. He is also the author of four true crime books and hosts the nationwide radio show and podcast Crime & Forensics.

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