Can your eye movements reveal whether you are telling the truth or not? Some body language experts believe a person exhibits certain eye movements when lying, but others disagree.

This association between eye movements and lying first came about with the emergence of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in 1972. NLP founders John Grinder and Richard Bandler mapped out a ‘standard eye movement’ chart (Eye Accessing Cues). This chart depicted where our eyes move in relation to our thoughts.

It is generally accepted that the left side of our brain is associated with logic and our right side with creativity. Therefore, according to NLP experts, anyone who looks left is using their logical side and those who look right are accessing a creative side. This premise has translated into logic = truth whereas creativity = lying.

They claim that when we are thinking, our eyes move as the brain accesses information. Information is stored in the brain in four different ways:

  1. Visually
  2. Auditorally
  3. Kinaesthetically
  4. Internal dialogue

According to Grinder and Bandler, depending on which of these four ways we access this information will dictate where our eyes move.

  • Up and Left: Visually remembering
  • Up and Right: Visually constructing
  • Left: Auditorally remembering
  • Right: Auditorally constructing
  • Down and Left: Internal dialogue
  • Down and Right: Kinaesthetic remembering

Eye movements when lying in more detail:

  • Up and Left

If someone asked you to remember your wedding dress or the first house you purchased, moving your eyes up and to the right accesses the visual remembering part of the brain.

  • Up and to the Right

Imagine a pig flying across the sky or cows with pink spots on them. Then your eyes would move up and to the left as you are visually constructing these images.

  • Left

In order to remember your favourite song, your eyes should move to the right as it accesses the auditory remembering part of your brain.

  • Right

If you were asked to imagine the lowest bass note you can think of, your eyes would move to the left as it tried to auditorily construct this sound.

  • Down and Left

Asked if you can remember the smell of cut grass or a bonfire, or the taste of their favourite beer, people’s eyes will typically move down and right as they recall that smell.

  • Down and Right

This is the direction your eyes move when you are talking to yourself or engaging in internal dialogue.

So how does this knowledge of eye movement help us in detecting someone who is lying, according to NLP experts?

Now we know what NLP experts believe regarding eye movements when lying. They say that if you ask someone a question, you can follow their eye movements and tell if someone is lying or not.

So a typically normal right-handed person should look to the left if they are recalling actual events, memories, sounds, and feelings. If they are lying, their eyes will look to the right, the creative side.

For example, you asked your partner if they stayed late at the office the previous night. If they answered “Yes, of course, I did,” and looked up and to the left, you would know they were telling the truth.

According to Grinder and Bandler, these eye movements and lying work with a normal right-handed person. Left-handed people will have opposite meanings for their eye movements.

Can you really tell if a person is lying simply by their eye movements?

Most experts, however, do not think eye movements and lying are connected. A study was conducted at the University of Hertfordshire. Volunteers were filmed and their eye movements were recorded as they either told the truth or lied.

Another group of volunteers then watched the film of the first and was asked to see if they could detect who was lying and who was telling the truth. Simply by watching their eye movements.

Prof Wiseman, a psychologist who ran the study said: “The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills.”

Further studies into eye movements and lying involved reviewing press conferences where people appealed for help with regard to missing relatives. They also studied the films of press releases where people claimed to be the victims of crimes. In some of the films, the person was lying and in other they were telling the truth. After analysing both films, no evidence of an association between eye movements and lying was detected.

Co-author of the study – Dr. Caroline Watt, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses.”

Dr. Watt believes that now is the time to discard this method of thinking and focus attention on other means of detecting liars.

Closing thoughts

Despite the above-described study debunked this method, many still believe that a person has certain eye movements when lying. However, most experts think that detecting lying is far more complicated than eye movement.

Wiseman agrees: “There are some actual cues that might indicate lying—such as being static or talking less or dropping in terms of emotionality, but I don’t think there’s any reason to keep holding onto this idea about eye movement.”

References:

  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Image source: imgur.com

Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jay

    Their right or your right. Is the picture backwards? Because if it is their left or right the picture is backwards.

  2. Avatar
    Jason Kioke

    I believe it’s when they’re looking to THEIR right, when Remembering AKA Telling the Truth. And THEIR Left when lying.

  3. Avatar
    SM

    I am very curious about how this theory would judge a person that is ambidextrous? Maybe we have never been charted.

  4. Avatar
    Adarsh

    There are different ways

  5. Avatar
    Bob Morris

    Is it my left when looking at them or is it their left, my right???

  6. Avatar
    Matthew Sprinkle

    Lol guys its their left and their right ,now ifthe look to the right their lying to the left their telling the truth now if their left handed its the exact opposite as they use adifferent side of the brain

  7. Avatar
    Dennis Y

    We were actually trained and shown this in the Police Academy. Diane Sawyer Used this method on Monica Lawinsky interview.
    So the easy way to remember is if looking at the person answering questions is to remember eye movements “to your right” is RIGHT. Which would make it to their left. If their eyes move to your left it is incorrect and wrong.
    As the article says. A normal right handed person. Many other clues you look for too. Sweating, just crossed arms and not looking at you when answering etc…..
    Elected officials know about this and will make sure their eye movement does not go to your left when answering questions. Best if the person your interviewing is unaware of test.

  8. Avatar
    Chelsea

    To Dennis Y… I think that’s still a reach. I used to fold my arms for any and everything rarely made eye contact amongst a few other things. A few of my managers during ages 19-25 commented on this and I never saw that I always did it, but after being ridiculed by a customer for doing these things I decided to make changes in my life. Now, I never fold my arms, ever, and if I do, I fold them behind my back to seem more approachable, or just clasp my hands as low as possible. My eye contact is now isn’t great for everyday conversations, but when I’m at work or talking to an authoritative figure or if I’m lying, I don’t lose eye contact, I know how to take breaks from staring so it’s not overwhelming, but it’s great in that aspect. I still sweat in my palms, feet, chest like a maniac, but I have no way to control my sweat glands naturally. (it’s also highly possible I’m on the spectrum, but I don’t know..)

  9. Avatar
    Goose

    Lol article’s conclusion is that eye/lie correlation has been debunked but most still asking “who’s left? My left?” If you missed the point of the article you’re not gonna be able to tell if someone lies. Different cultures have different social norms about how to or how to not hold eye contact, posture and hand movements, volume of speech, etc… then you have to make assumptions about their physical and mental state, did they just have a shouting match with a spouse, having a post-workout flustered sweat, lack of sleep, etc.. also lie detectors are also a myth to scare people, it’s why no court in the world allows them, it’s pseudoscience, may as well blame a crime on Bigfoot.

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