01 Aug
Reshma Venugopal

Can your eyes give away your lies?


If you have grown up watching murder mysteries and thriller shows, then you must be familiar with lie detection. Sure, there are many modern techniques to find out whether or not suspects lie, for example; through the lie detector, also known as a polygraph test.No doubt, these tests look fascinating in the movies and tv shows but let's face it, movies and tv shows will always remain in the imaginary world for us. However, what about the real world?

People lie all the time, from a child’s very first lie about the stolen cookie, to some drug dealers lying about not knowing where they kept their stash; lies have a universal process and a more universal way of catching them. Is the talent of catching lies important to lie? Well, I am going to leave that opinion to you, but the following article is going to describe how you can tell if someone is lying based on their eye movements and facial expressions.


Visual Accessing Cues: A.k.a the lying eyes.

Researchers conducted a number of studies which tried to see how eye movements of right- handed people change when they are asked a question. They can be further categorised into six sub points:

  • Visually constructed images (Vc)
  • Visually remembered images (Vr)
  • Auditory constructed (Ac)
  • Auditory remembered (Ar)
  • Feeling or Kinesthetic (F)
  • Internal dialog (Id)

1. Visually constructed Images (Vc)

This is particularly noticed when someone is asked to imagine something, let’s say a blue potato, then their eye movement will shift to the top and to the left. This shows that they are trying to imagine the potato, as they are trying to “visually construct an image” (Blifaloo.com, 2017)
So how can this particular point catch a lie? So, let us imagine that someone asked for your brother’s car keys, and you ask them who sent them or why they want it. If they move their eyes to the top and to the left, you can tell they are making up an answer, as they are “constructing a visual image”, or in other words making up some nonsense.

 2. Visually remembered images (Vr)

Ask someone what their first school looked like, you will notice their eyes looking at the top and then to the right. This shows they are trying to recall an image from their past. How can we use this to detect a lie? Well, if you ask the same question to the person, and they look to the top and right, that means they are trying to remember what was said, so we can possibly give him the benefit of doubt.

 3.Auditory constructed (Ac)
Ask someone if they can create the weirdest sound they have ever heard, and you will notice their eyes looking to the left. This is slightly different from the Visually constructed image, as that requires the eyes to move to the top and then to the left. While with the auditory constructed, the eyes will simply move to the left. How do you know the person is lying with this? Clearly, if they are making it up, they will look to the left side, and hence, you could suggest that they are lying.

Say, for example, you ask someone if they heard and could recall last night’s noise of a woman screaming down the street. If they really did not hear it, they will look to the left, trying to construct a sound that could possibly match the original noise.
4. Auditory remembered (Ar)
Similar to the Visual remembered image; auditory remembered image will make your eyes move to the right. Ask someone if they remember their first school song, you may notice that their eyes will move to the right. This suggests that they are trying to recall the sound.

So in the above examples case, if the person did hear the sound, then they will look to the right in the order to remember. Hence, proving they might be saying the truth.
5. Feeling or Kinesthetic (F)

This occurs mostly when someone is asked to recall or remember the feeling of something. Let’s say a woman comes into the police station to report a molestation case, and the officers in charge ask her how she felt. If her eyes move from the bottom to the bottom left, then this suggests that she does not truly know the feeling of being molested. As she is trying to recreate or construct a feeling in order to describe it.

6. Internal dialogue (Id)

If you ask someone something, and they start talking to themselves, their eyes will move to the bottom right. This suggests that they are trying to make sense out of what is happening, or trying to make a sensible lie.


While the above-mentioned points are all based on eye movement, there are many other methods of lie detection. Many researchers have downright rejected all of the mentioned points as they are not always consistent with every research, so perhaps generalizing them is not okay. A good liar may not show the slightest eye movement or facial expression, but professionals may detect these lies through the dilation of their pupils, or their speech changes. Others may simply sweat more when they lie or have awkward hand movements.

Moreover, the above-mentioned points are based on right-handed people. Note that left handed people may show the same eye movements but in the opposite direction.

The points above have been summarized from a book called "Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming" by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They had conducted this research and eventually derived to these points. As I mentioned before, they are subjected to many factors, and cannot be generalized to everyone. Many critics have found other more reliable ways of catching lies, but they are not necessarily based on eye movements. Maybe you could try these on your friends, family or even colleagues and conduct this test by asking them related questions, and watch their eye movements for proof. I did, and it worked about 70% of the time, especially for the visual remembering cue!

Responses 1

  • Sanjna Verma
    Sanjna Verma   Aug 04, 2017 08:23 PM

    Woah! This is fascinating stuff and as you said that it is something that we have seen in detective serials and yes, everyone could have wondered about it's true nature. Very interesting.

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