Katia Loisel Little White Liars Interview
Body language and relationship expert, Katia Loisel, has revealed how to successfully tell a lie and get away with it to help celebrate the release of Pretty Little Liars: Season 4 on DVD and Blu-ray.
Pretty Little Liars is a mystery-thriller television series loosely based on the novels written by Sara Shepherd. The series follows the lives four girls whose clique falls apart when their queen bee mysteriously disappears and their world of lies, deceit and deception starts to unravel.
According to Loisel, lying is a part of our day-to-day interactions, with most of us telling little white lies to maintain or preserve relationships, to get ahead at work, save face or get out of a tricky situation.
'Telling a fib isn't necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you're doing it to preserve someone's feelings or wellbeing, but getting caught out can be worse than the lie itself. That's why it's important we're aware of our physical and emotional cues to ensure that when we do need to tell a lie, we can get away with it," Loisel said.
With body language often responsible for giving us up when we tell fibs, Loisel has given the top tips to make sure you don't get caught telling a white lie.
Step 1 – Relax
The level detection apprehension (or how worried you are about getting caught), affects your ability to get away with a lie. Fear also makes you more likely to slip up and reveal deception cues. The more relaxed and confident you feel in your ability to get away with a lie, the more believable you'll be.
Step 2 - Control your body language
When lying, most people focus on controlling their facial expression and words, with few consciously controlling their gestures and postures. However, doing a mental check of your body language has two advantages. Your body is much easier to control than your facial expressions and changing your posture and gestures can help to make you feel less stressed and more confident. Research has found that holding a power status (back straight and tall, open posture, chin up) for only a minute increases testosterone levels and decreases cortisol, making you feel more powerful and less stressed.
Step 3 - Misidentifying the reason for the emotion
A lie is easier to conceal if there is no strong emotion tied to it. The stronger the emotion, the more likely it is that your face, voice and body will leak information. Rather than trying to mask the emotion you're feeling (fear, panic), acknowledging it but attributing it to something else makes the lie harder to spot.
Step 4 - Understating the truth
The best way to tell a lie is to not actually say anything untruthful. It's easier to conceal information than to make a story up, which is why you're less likely to get caught telling a fib if you're lying through omission or by understating the facts.
Step 5 - Prepare and practice
When it comes to lying, preparation is key. The more you believe your story or the more prepared you are with a thought through back-story and an accurate recollection of what you've already said, the less it is that you'll be caught off guard.
So if body language is generally a dead giveaway to when someone is fibbing, why is it so hard to catch a liar out?
'Contrary to popular belief, there is no one sign that tells you when someone is lying," explains Loisel.
'When we speak to someone, we are bombarded with sensory information – facial expressions, words, vocal tone, pitch, pace, gestures, breathing rate – there are often too many to decipher and as such, we tend to focus our attention on the two most easy to take note of; words and facial expression. This is just one of the reasons it can be difficult to catch someone out when they're lying," she said.
'With that said, what's stronger than looking at physical cues is emotion – the stronger our emotional connection with someone, the less likely we are to think they are lying. Our emotions can filter physical and verbal cues because we often see and hear what we want to in order to protect ourselves or save face, or in the worst case scenario, because the truth would be too painful."
Pretty Little Liars is available for purchase now on Blu-ray and DVD.
Interview with Katia Loisel
Question: What are the key signs to spot a liar?
Katia Loisel: When it comes to spotting a lie, look out for shifts and changes in behaviour, body language, facial expressions and paralanguage (vocal tone, speed, pace, volume and pauses). You should also always look for a cluster three to five simultaneous negative signals and avoid analysing one body part in isolation. Many body gestures have multiple meanings, so always consider the individual, situation, emotionally intensity and timing of the behaviour when putting the puzzle together. Timing is also particularly important when it comes to spotting a lie. Watch out for changes in non-verbal communication or increase in signs of anxiety, fear or stress before, during and after a particular line of questioning.
A word of caution: There is no sign for lying, what leakage and deceit cues actually tell is that the person feels nervous, afraid or uncomfortable (and not necessarily that they're lying). Fear can be triggered for many reasons other than lying, particularly if the person feels intimidated or afraid of not being believed. How people react when they lie also depends on the individual, emotional intensity, the situation and stakes. The trick is to piece together the pieces of the puzzle to work out why they're feeling that way.
In general the discomfort caused by telling a lie may lead to increases in distancing and blocking, blink rate, use of manipulators (or comforting gestures such as fidgeting and jiggling), pauses and speech errors and decreases in gestures, intimacy and eye contact. However, in some cases a liar may do the opposite in an attempt to overcompensate.
Here are the top 10 signs that suggest that they may be lying:
1. Distancing and blocking – averted gaze, hand to face gestures, hidden palms and retracted legs: We subconsciously move towards people and situations we like and away from people and situations that make us feel uncomfortable. Keep an eye out for a hand or partial hand over the mouth or a nose as they speak in an attempt to -block' out what they're saying, eye blocks including averted gaze or palms that are hidden or thrust into their pockets. You may also notice signs of emotional or physical withdrawal.
2. Increased blink rate: The average relaxed blink rate is around 20 blinks per minute but this can increase dramatically when someone is psychologically aroused or if their thought processes speed up (perhaps to fabricate a lie).
3. Micro-expressions (Involuntary Facial Expressions) and micro-gestures: Emotional arousal causes facial muscles to fire, resulting in fleeting facial expressions or micro expressions that last only a fraction of a second. While these are often covered up by a smile (the easiest facial expression to make) or another emotion, expressions such as a sneer (a sign of contempt), quivering lip, or raised fear brow provide reliable clues, if you look closely enough. Micro-gestures such as flinching, facial blushing and twitching can also provide more accurate clues about emotion.
4. Lip biting, compression and pursing and tongue jutting: What they do with their lips can also give you information about how they feel. Disappearing lips and lip biting are a subconscious response to stress and anxiety, whilst rubbing the tongue inside the mouth and licking of the lips are pacifying gestures used to comfort during times of stress.
5. Withdrawal, tension or jiggling in the feet and legs: The legs and feet give us invaluable information about what someone is really feeling because they are one of the last body parts that we consciously control. Look for the ankle lock, a sudden leg cross in an attempt to block you, comforting gestures (such as twisting feet around the chair leg) and other signs of withdrawal, tension and jiggling.
6. Change in animation and gesturing: Liars often experience deception apprehension or a fear of getting caught. If the stakes are high, this can trigger the fear response causing the liar to become frozen with fear, less animated and with minimal gesturing.
7. Manipulators – fidgeting, rubbing: Manipulators such as fidgeting, wringing of the hands, rubbing and restless body movements are often incorrectly associated with lying. However, manipulators (or comforting gestures) indicate discomfort (and not necessarily deceit) and can be easily controlled for a short period. In most cases, the more uncomfortable we are, the more fidgeting, jiggling, touching and rubbing you're likely to see.
8. Increases in sweating and swallowing: Emotional arousal stimulates the sympathetic system or fight and flight response causing increases in breathing rate and sweating. A decrease in saliva can also cause a dry mouth so look at for subconscious attempts to lubricate such as excessive swallowing.
9. Speech inconsistencies and errors: Fear and stress can affect our ability to speak and think clearly, so keep an eye out for speech errors, slips of the tongue, convoluted answers laden with detail or indirect responses. But bare in mind, some people are easily flustered whilst some liars are just the opposite and can lie flawlessly with no signs of stress.
10. Vocal clues: Like facial expressions, the voice is directly connected to our emotional brain, making it a good indicator of negative or positive emotion. Pitch is the best vocal indicator of emotion, with studies showing that for 70 per cent of people, pitch becomes higher when they're upset. But emotion can also affect speech speed and the amount of pauses used. Faster, louder speech is often associated with fear and anger, whereas speech that is slow and soft is associated with sadness. Long pauses before an answer or frequent long or short pauses may indicate that they're nervous, unprepared or trying to buy time as they fabricate a story.
Question: Is it really that easy to spot a liar just from body language?
Katia Loisel: Whilst the majority of lies leak some kind of evidence or deceit cues, studies show that most people aren't great at spotting a fib. An analysis of 206 studies on deceit by Bond and DePaulo from the University of California found that people were only 56 per cent accurate when it comes to picking up on deceit.
Deceit is complex, but that's not the only reason it can be so hard to spot. Contrary to popular belief, there is no one sign that tells you when someone is lying. When we speak to someone, we are bombarded with sensory information – facial expressions, words, vocal tone, pitch, pace, gestures, breathing rate – there are often too many to decipher and as such, we tend to focus our attention on the two most easy to take note of; words and facial expression. This is just one of the reasons it can be difficult to catch someone out when they're lying.
With that said, what's stronger than looking at physical cues is emotion – the stronger our emotional connection with someone, the less likely we are to think they are lying. Our emotions can filter physical and verbal cues because we often see and hear what we want to in order to protect ourselves or save face, or in the worst case scenario, because the truth would be too painful.
Question: How can we catch a liar out?
Katia Loisel: Lying is complex but there are a few things you can do to get a liar to tell the truth. Make them comfortable to establish their baseline (or normal behaviour) and avoid interrogating them but rather ask questions that clarify their response whilst watching their reaction carefully. If you notice sudden changes in their body language, facial expressions or paralanguage (vocal tone, pace, speed or volume) ask for more detail.
It's harder to fabricate information than to conceal it so asking for more information may just slip them up. Last but not least make it easier for them to come clean by downplaying the consequences. For many people the fear of lying is accompanied by the fear of getting caught causing conflicting emotions. In other words, someone may want to confess because of the guilt they feel for telling a lie but at the same time feel afraid about the consequences and shame involved with coming clean.
Question: When was the last time you told a little white lie?
Katia Loisel: This morning. I have two little kids who now think that Santa will replace one of their presents with a rotten potato if they're not good.
Question: Why isn't a white lie always necessarily a bad thing?
Katia Loisel: Numerous studies have shown that lying is a part of our day-to-day interactions, with a study by DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer and Epstein (1996) reporting that participants lied during a quarter of all interactions. Whilst that may seem like a lot, the most common form of deceit are little white lies (such as you look great in that when they really don't), often told to maintain and preserve relationships, save face or get out of tricky situations.
Lying isn't necessarily a bad thing if it's done for the right reason such as protecting someone's feelings or wellbeing. However, even seemingly innocent lies can damage relationships and reputations and lead to internal and external conflict and / or a tangled web of lies.
Question: How can we control our body language when telling a white lie?
Katia Loisel: When lying, most people focus on controlling their facial expression and words, with few consciously controlling their gestures and postures. However, doing a mental check of your body language has two advantages. Your body is much easier to control than your facial expressions and changing your posture and gestures can help to make you feel less stressed and more confident. Research has also found that holding a power status (back straight and tall, open posture, chin up) for only a minute increases testosterone levels and decreases cortisol, making you feel more powerful and believable and less stressed. Using your breath to relax, avoiding manipulators (or comforting gestures) such as fidgeting or jiggling and maintaining eye contact will also help to keep fear at bay and make you look more believable.
Question: Who is more likely to lie; men or women?
Katia Loisel: Studies show that when it comes to lying, men and women lie are just as guilty, however, they tend to lie about different things. People are most likely to lie as an act of self-preservation, about their opinions and how they feel, however, women tend to use lies as a form of relationship maintenance and to protect other's feelings and self-esteem, whereas men are more likely to lie to build themselves up or for monetary reward.
Question: What have you learnt about lying from watching Pretty Little Liars?
Katia Loisel: The main thing that Pretty Little Liars teaches audiences about lying is that the fear of getting caught and the guilt and shame associated with lying and being found out is often far worse than the lie itself. In most cases it's often that fear rather than the telling of a lie that gives you away.
Question: How do actors use body language to their advantage?
Katia Loisel: Our emotions and physiology are directly linked. While emotional changes directly effect our respiration, facial expressions and body language, changes to our physiology also directly impacts our emotions. Understanding body language and how it affects how you feel and interact with others has substantial benefits both for business and pleasure. I train actors on how to use body language to get into character, trigger genuine emotions through quick and simple changes to their physiology and combat nerves.
Interview by Brooke Hunter