“A liar’s testimony is often more persuasive than a truthteller’s. Liars are more likely to tell a story in chronological order, whereas honest people often present accounts in an improvised jumble. Similarly, according to DePaulo and Bond, subjects who spontaneously corrected themselves, or said that there were details that they couldn’t recall, were more likely to be truthful than those who did not—though, in the real world, memory lapses arouse suspicion.
People who are afraid of being disbelieved, even when they are telling the truth, may well look more nervous than people who are lying. This is bad news for the falsely accused, especially given that influential manuals of interrogation reinforce the myth of the twitchy liar. “Criminal Interrogation and Confessions” (1986), by Fred Inbau, John Reid, and Joseph Buckley, claims that shifts in posture and nervous “grooming gestures,” such as “straightening hair” and “picking lint from clothing,” often signal lying. David Zulawski and Douglas Wicklander’s “Practical Aspects of Interview and Interrogation” (1992) asserts that a liar’s movements tend to be “jerky and abrupt” and his hands “cold and clammy.” Bunching Kleenex in a sweaty hand is another damning sign—one more reason for a sweaty-palmed, Kleenex-bunching person like me to hope that she’s never interrogated”…. <More>