You are being lied to. A lot.
In fact, according to science, we hear between 10 and 200 lies a day. Most of these are harmless lies -- less-than-forthright excuses for being late, overly generous compliments, etc. -- but mixed in with these polite polishings of the truth are the sorts of lies that can crash your business, tank your investment portfolio, or ruin your relationship. How do you spot them?
Various machines and techniques claim to spot some telltale physical signs of lying, but there is a simpler and more practical way to identify liars in everyday life. Forget the effects of dishonestly on the body and look carefully for what it does to language instead.
According to communication science and something called linguistic text analysis, you can tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction by analyzing the language of a story, a fascinating TED-Ed video on the subject asserts.
"We lie partly to paint a better picture of ourselves, connecting our fantasies to the person we wish we were rather than the person we are. But while our brain is busy dreaming, it's letting plenty of signals slip by," explains the short video. What are those signals? Here are the main four to look out for:
1. Less personal
Liars reference themselves less and use the third person more to distance themselves from the lie, claims the video. Compare, "Absolutely no party took place at this house!" to "I didn't host a party here." Which sounds more false?
In practice, this means that when you hear someone talking about themselves but avoiding using 'I' and other first person pronouns that should be a red flag that all is not as it appears.
2. More negative
"Liars tend to be more negative because on a subconscious level they feel guilty about lying," says the video. For that reason lies are often excessively negative. For instance, that guy who forget to call you will say, "Sorry, my stupid phone battery died. I hate that thing!" while your friend with the genuinely dead phone will simply say, "Sorry, my battery died."
3. Simple stories
Lying is hard work for your brain, so when someone is making up a story, he or she will tend to keep it simple to lighten the cognitive load. That often means that lies are simple and straightforward, not complex tales or elaborate chains of events.
4. Complicated language
The tales liars tell might be essentially simple, but that doesn't mean the way they tell them is equally straightforward. Liars "tend to use longer and more convoluted sentence structure, inserting unnecessary words and irrelevant but factual-sounding details in order to pad the lie," notes Ted-Ed.
Think of Richard Nixon declaring, "I can say categorically that this investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident," as an example, suggests the video.
If you're intrigued by this science, the complete video below offers some fascinating real life examples, comparing the language cyclist Lance Armstrong used in early denials of doping to his later admission of guilt, for instance.