Blog by the artist Sanne Kabalt

On lies and liars


A while ago, I told a lie. I was caught of guard and before I knew it, I was blushing, averting my eyes, changing my voice and lying – unconvincingly, I presume. I was somehow shaken by this experience. You can see this as proof of how honest I usually am - if you believe I am not lying here and now, that is.

In ancient China suspected liars were subjected to ‘the spitting method’: A person had to chew some uncooked rice and spit it out. If it was still dry, you were said to be a liar, as a sure sign of a liar was said to be a dry mouth. Today a liar is supposedly recognized by the averting of eyes / too much eye contact / the replication of the innocence of childhood by widening the eyes / exaggerated facial expression / nervous smiling / freezing / scratching / itching / the shuffling of feet / distracting behavior such as touching the hair or ears / blinking frequently / a delay in reaction. There is a theory that people telling the truth will turn their eyes to the left - for memories are stored in the left part of the brain - while liars will turn their eyes to the right - for in the right part of the brain imagination is stimulated. There is the ‘Pinocchio effect’; scientists discovered that lying causes the nose to heat up (some say it also gets a little bit bigger, but that was never proven). And of course there are the machines, lie detectors and polygraphs that measure heart rate, respiration, skin response and blood pressure.

While I was lying, I noticed (soon, but too late) that I looked and behaved unnatural. I felt transparent. But liars will only look different when the following two conditions are fully met:

-> the liar is deliberately and knowingly telling a lie.

-> the liar thinks lying is wrong.

Almost all unnatural behavior in a liar that you can observe and test is caused by stress. The liar only feels stress if he knows he’s lying and he thinks he shouldn’t. Therefore, people who are unaware of the untruth in their words or who don’t believe in honesty and truthfulness (psychopaths and criminals for example) make perfect undetectable liars. Isn’t it fascinating how a lie can become so clearly visible in some cases, yet so well concealed in others?




Sanne Kabaltlies, lying, liars, lie detector