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Mrs. Covert's Spying Lesson #3 : Detecting Lies

One of the most important skills you can have as a spy is learning to recognize a lie.

Dr. Paul Ekman, Professor of Psychology, in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco, is a specialist in recognizing deception. He doesnít detect lies by the words used, but by noticing what he calls "micro-expressions on peopleís faces." A micro-expression lasts about 1/25th of a second. Regular expressions last half a second up to several seconds. A micro-expression indicates that a person is thinking more than would be normal in that situation. A micro-expression is a sign of distress.

Dr. Ekman gave an interview with the BBC


which is accompanied by a video of people intentionally lying about their opinion of the death penalty. The close-up of the forehead wrinkles is a useful tip.

Hereís another interview with Dr. Ekman: http://www.thismagazine.ca/36_2/freethink.html

in which he not only gives tips for recognizing lies, he also talks about how to set up conversations to prevent lies, and instead seek understanding. This is a most useful tip for spies.

Here is a website showing 7 common facial expressions, and the interpretations:


Larry Farwell has invented a Brain Fingerprint machine that works on the P 300 effect.   The P 300 effect is the name for the fact that most people react 300 milliseconds after seeing a picture of something they recognize. The Brain Fingerprint machine consists of a band of electrodes that goes around the head and a computer screen that briefly flashes pictures that are neutral, pictures that are familiar to the person who is being tested, and pictures that would only be known to the criminal and those who are investigating the case.  Evidence from this machine has been accepted in courts of law and has been used as grounds for a new trial or for proof of innocence.  Read more here:



Sometimes words will give a liar away. Hereís an article about how many liars avoid using pronouns, avoiding details, and unnecessary emotion: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/news/111102_local_liars.html

And hereís a website thatís not scientific, but tells what most people think about liars:


Read this and be sure you donít do the things this article says liars do. It will help you earn trust from your suspects and help you avoid being taken in if they lie to you.


Mrs. Covert

Ask Mrs. Covert Write Mrs. Covert. Click here:
Lesson Four: Following a Suspect

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