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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Cipriano

"How to Catch a Liar": CrimeCon: On The Run 2019

The average person will be told anywhere between 100-200 lies per day, and 2-3 of those lies will unfold in the first 10 minutes of conversations, according to Steven David Lampley, the Radio Crime Commentator who spent 21 years as a police officer and undercover sex crimes SVU detective.

He's no stranger to suspects avoiding eye contact and shifting around uncomfortably in the hot seat. But becoming about 90% effective at spotting lies didn't happen overnight. Lampley has spent years honing his craft.

With his relaxed demeanor and casual tone, Lampley told the crowd,

"You can go on YouTube and any of these other video services and watch video, after video, after video of lying indicators. They're a dime-a-dozen out there." He pauses and shakes his head in disagreement, then explains, "It will do you no good - you're not going to be effective."

Some things you must know before looking at lying indicators are that the behaviors have to occur in clusters. If someone clears their throat once in a conversation, that's not enough to jump the gun and confront them. But, if the timing is right, and they clear their throat repeatedly immediately after saying something shady, you're onto their deception.

Ideally, you'll need a person's baseline - knowledge of how they act when they're open and truthful. Any shift in that typical behavior is cause for concern. This change is even more important when making sure someone isn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

We began with a simple test using only our existing knowledge: watch short pre-recorded videos of Lampley telling a lie repeatedly in different fashions (No, I did not kill my best friend). We had to write down how many behavioral lying indicators we saw and what the indicators were.

I didn't do as well as I had hoped to.

I was only able to catch about half of the 5 or 6 indicators shown in each video. However, when we re-watched them after learning more about what to look for, I finished with a perfect score.

Here are the Conversational, Verbal, and Behavioral Indicators we learned.

Conversational Indicators

Pronoun Usage

  • Not being able to say someone’s name is a subconscious sign that an individual is lying because it creates distance from them. (Did you kill your best friend Sam? No I didn’t kill him.)

Aggression towards the person questioning

  • Screw you, I can’t believe you would ask me such an outrageous and absurd question!

Failure to deny

  • It’s as if the person can’t even bring themself to say they're innocent. (Did you kill your best friend Sam? I would never hurt anyone.)

Elusion/Mid Shift

  • A sudden change in direction is evidence of a guilty conscience. (Did you kill your best friend Sam? Is everything okay? Is he hurt? We need to go to the hospital right now and see him!)

Verbal Indicators

Qualifying Statements/Repeating the question

  • Gives the person time to subconsciously think about their answer.

Singing “No”

  • Voice pitch change or a drawn out exaggeration of the denial is an indicator of a lie. This is common among teenagers. (Did you kill your best friend Sam? NooOoOo.)

Bringing in God or religion

  • I see this as a way for the liar to come across as incredibly truthful, but they only end up seeming extreme. (Did you kill your best friend Sam? I swear to god and my mother’s grave, I didn’t kill Sam.)

Formal Language

When I hear someone shift from a conversational and casual tone to being formal, it sets off red flags. (Did you kill your best friend Sam? No I did not murder Samuel.)

Physical Indicators

Duchenne Smile

  • A fake smile that doesn’t involve creasing of the eyes.


  • When the other person turns their body away from you.

Object Between

  • Subconsciously, when they hold a physical object so as to block themself from you (ex: a coffee cup, a pillow).


Playing with hands or hiding thumbs

  • Hiding thumbs is a psychological sign of insecurity.

Excessive Blinking or avoiding eye contact.

“Police academy didn’t teach me any of this,” he says. “I learned on my own. While interviewing witnesses or suspects, I paid attention to their mannerisms, body language, and my own intuition.”

Lampley held the attention of the room for the entire hour. He used subtle humor to break away from the intensity of the subject matter by adding in funny pictures to his presentation - mainly photos of doughnuts, which everyone loved.

I specifically liked this session because these tips don't just apply to detectives in interrogation situations. Anyone can use these in everyday conversations because, like Lampley said, we are told 100-200 lies per day.

Overall, I think these are easy to understand indicators and behaviors to look for when engaging in conversations.

What's important to note is that "with great power comes great responsibility." Just because someone has a few nervous habits in the face of confrontation, it doesn't mean they're guilty of anything.

You can learn more about Steven David Lampley, and order his book from his website here.


This is a condensed version of what I learned and took away from the hour-long event mentioned above which I attended during CrimeCon, presented by Oxygen.


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