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A very interested feline, by Flickr user Decade_null.

The site Mind Control Techniques, Covert Hypnosis, and Persuasion has an interesting article: Your Eyes Don't Lie -- Reading Thoughts By Eye Movements.

The article is based on the concept of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), and states that people's eyes will go in certain directions if their thoughts are in specific categories associated with those eye movements. To wit:

  • Eye contact denotes interest. Brief eye contact denotes nervousness or some disinterest. Prolonged eye contact may denote an attempt at intimidation.
  • Eyes looking straight up may denote contempt or annoyance, unless the conversation is religious in nature.
  • Eyes looking to the left suggest that someone is imagining what something sounds like.
  • Eyes looking to the right suggest that someone is recalling what something sounds like.
  • Eyes looking up and to the left mean that someone is imagining a picture.
  • Eyes looking up and to the right mean that someone is trying to recall an image.
  • Eyes looking down and to the left mean someone is thinking about their emotions.
  • Eyes looking down and to the right denote an "internal dialogue" of some kind, whether it's the recollection of a past conversation or an internal debate about what to say next.
  • The directions may be the opposite for some people, but they should be consistently so for the person concerned.
  • To see if someone is lying, establish a "baseline" for them by asking questions you know they won't respond to with a lie; observe what they do when you know they're telling the truth.

I'm not going to lie to you: I think there are problems with this information. If you're curious, please join me after the break.

As I said a while back, the problem with these "liar cues" is that sometimes they're indicating something other than falseness. The comments to the article may be helpful, in that several readers suggest that it has no scientific basis and that internal consistency is the real key to spotting lies. There is disagreement about the effectiveness of many aspects of Neuro-linguistic Programming, even within the NLP community, though some elements have been shown to be effective.

Because so many people believe many common myths about lie-spotting, articles like this often make it possible for liars to become better at what they do: no, the person making eye contact with you and nodding is not necessarily listening as intently as you might believe (the author of the article admits that eye contact can be meaningless and never states that it indicates truthfulness, only interest).

On the other hand, I could see this information being useful to parents who have a kid who's a habitual, not-very-accomplished fibber; the article's author positions it as something relevant to poker players. (Although the photo may suggest otherwise, it is not useful with regard to your cat. If he or she is making eye contact, it is probably because you have tuna on the bridge of your nose.)

Ultimately, it's probably not a good idea to make any major life decisions based on something you read on a hypnosis site on the Internet. Or a do-it-yourself blog, for that matter.


  • LJ

    The most useful information in the article is at the end. Observe the person during "control" questions and establish a baseline. Looking at verbal cues alone will not be very helpful in determining truthfulness; however, the totality of the circumstances combined with experience in interviewing techniques will.

  • John

    NLP goes back to the 70s - a pair of psychologists (Richard Bandler and John Grinder) were doing research on meta-communication (what is being conveyed by the interaction, not the meaning of the words being spoken). They undertook field studies of Milton Ericcson - an atypically successful therapist that used 'hypnotic' techniques. Grinder and Bandler developed an empirical meta-communication structure based on this field work and published it. Quite a good work. NLP as we know it now are the simplistic drippings of this work - it has attracted numerous flakes who want to control others. Anthony Robbins and his firewalking con games are a premier example of NLP being abused for personal gain. There is meaningful knowledge in this field, but it's not the 'spot the liar' tricks being espoused in this article.

  • M.E. Williams

    Actually, a closer reading of this article (ahem) will show you that these techniques are not, in fact, being *espoused* here: they're being debunked, to the extent possible in a brief blog post. I don't have anything to do with whether or not AOL decides to put one of my articles on their front page, and I don't have any say in the title they use, either.

    But other than that, thanks for the helpful comment. There is a Wikipedia link in the post with plenty more info w/r/t the development & eventual misuse of NLP in it, if people are interested.

  • gus gus

    i like the cats eyes.

  • Lindy

    I could always tell when my ex-husband was lying. His lips were moving.
    Happily divorced now . . .

  • aerospacemajor

    You know, when people got divorced years ago, they felt a sense of shame and didn't bring it up in conversation.

  • Lindy

    You know something, aerospacemajor? People also used to not allow women to vote. Why should I feel shame? I did absolutely nothing wrong, other than marry a man who had no respect for marriage or the truth.

    What is YOUR problem? You clearly have some real issues. Get some help.

  • MacBean

    aerospacemajor: Yeah, good thing people have started to overcome that antiquated way of thinking and now feel a bit more free to get out of bad/unhappy/abusive/flat-out harmful relationships, huh?

    Lindy: Good on you, and congratulations. I hope you stay happy. :)

  • MacBean

    aerospacemajor: Yeah, good thing people have started to overcome that antiquated way of thinking and now feel a bit more free to get out of bad/unhappy/abusive/flat-out harmful relationships, huh?

    Lindy: Good on you, and congratulations. I hope you stay happy. :)

  • Rick

    Eyes are the portholes to the soul

  • Samantha

    I maintain that if a person cannot look directly at you when conversing with you, there is a strong probability that they are lying or adding untrue information to what they are saying. They look away because they dont want the lie to be acknowledged- many people read other people by their eyes- whether consciously or subconsciously.

  • cinderella undercover

    or they could, you know, have asperger's.

  • TOM


  • jeannie

    The cats eyes are the bomb. And if-n- while watching a persons eye movments you can gently touch their forearm or shoulder close to the neck, you'd be surprized at what you you could tell about their truthfullness. have a question? ask me

  • Bob Martine

    As with all of us, the author is only is commenting upon his own self observations. Politicians learn through experience/practice how to make and perfect "eye contact" to their advantage. These precepts are basically founded upon fact, but are only theories.

  • jeannie

    Its not always true that if-n- a person does'nt look at you they are lying.
    It could be they aren't interested in your conversation or you, or the line of questioning. Or maybe they are shy.

  • Ann

    Both of my husbands preceded their lie with a quick sniff of their nose. It was always a dead giveaway. I never called them on it and they could never figure out how I knew they were lying. It was amazing to me that both of them did it. Go figure.

  • Andy

    Both of my husbands preceded their lie with a quick sniff of their nose. It was always a dead giveaway. I never called them on it

  • jeannie

    M E. Williams, I for one am glad for whatever reason, that they printed your article. I found it interesting. Jeannie

  • M.E. Williams

    Thanks, Jeannie!

    If you click on the picture of the cat, it should be linked to the Flickr page of whoever took it; they probably have more pix of the same cat. I looked at about 200+ photos of eyes before selecting one... I couldn't resist this little kitty either! :)

  • 35 Comments / 2 Pages

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