How to Tell if a Politician is Lying


star-sponsored-nativeThe following is sponsored by Southern Utah University.

You have probably heard the joke before, but how do you tell if a politician is lying? Answer, their lips are moving. It is too bad that noses do not actually grow like Pinocchio’s because in this heated and uneasy political climate the stakes are too high not to pay attention and question the integrity and truthfulness of a candidate running for office.

Although noses are not a tell-all sign, there are other ways to find out if a candidate is lying. Kevin Stein, associate professor of Communication at Southern Utah University, has insight on how to spot a deceitful politician. “Nonverbal cues people use when lying include too much or too little eye contact, excessive eye blinking, slower rate of speech, and longer pauses between statements,” said Stein.

Along with Stein, another expert from SUU gave helpful hints on how to spot misleading or deceptive individuals. Douglas Bennett, assistant professor of political science, has spent years in Washington D.C. as a top lobbyist. Bennett has witnessed dishonesty in all forms, from campaign speeches to social media posts to misrepresentation from the media.

Between Stein and Bennett, here are a few ways you can check if a politician is lying.

Listen for short answers

A good rule of thumb is to listen for short, vague statements. If someone is lying or even bending the truth, they will give shorter answers or pause between sections of the lie because they have to exercise creative thinking and this usually slows them down. The exceptions to this rule are people who have told a lie many times and are well practiced at it. It can appear that a person is telling the truth if a story is generally true except for a few really important details. So don’t trust everything you hear. Do your own research on the topic at hand.

Watch for abnormal behavior

Being familiar with a politician’s normal behaviors and habits can help you tell if they start fabricating the truth. If their actions or body language starts to shift during a speech they might be lying. Not making eye contact, avoiding the question, deflecting, fidgeting might all be signs that a politician is lying. However, be aware that some nonverbal cues are a reaction to anxiety.  Standing on stage being broadcasted in front of 84 million people at a national debate can naturally cause some nervousness. By being familiar with a politician before they get on stage, one can measure if a candidate deviates too much from their natural behavior.

Do your own research

Sometimes there isn’t a clear way for you to know if a candidate is being deceptive. So do your own research and fact check information. Look up candidates statements after the debate and check if they are correct or not. To find if the information is accurate, check multiple sources that lean opposite ways on the political spectrum to help gain an overall sense of the issue, not just one side. Here is a link to a graphic that shows the trust levels of national news organizations by ideological group. Take a second to step back, check a few sources, and look into a politician’s statement.

Utilizing these tips in the upcoming election will help make you an informed voter. Stay up-to-date on current events and election news so you’ll be ready to vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.