it’s science: you’re a terrible liar

You know how we’re always telling you words can give people away? Like if you hear “reverse racism” (a term that makes no sense because the opposite of racism isn’t more racism — it’s something really nice like a basket full of puppies) you know without looking that a white person said it? Or if a politician says he misspoke, he probably said exactly what he meant but wasn’t expecting you to get so upset about it?

Well, lest you think this whole exercise was a silly waste of energy, once in a while we like to shove some science in your face.

Look at this! These researchers found different patterns of words not only between liars and people who told the truth, but also in people who told different kinds of lies. Really ambitious liars — the people who said demonstrably false things — used more words than truth-tellers, plus they swore a lot. People who lied by omission used fewer words than anyone, as if they were afraid an incriminating piece of information would fly out of their mouths unbidden at any moment if they moved their lips too much.

This study is a lot of fun. But we hasten to add there’s no surefire way to tell if someone is lying to you. Some people are really chatty even when they’re telling the truth, and other people (this monster included) don’t much care for the sound of their own voices. And as I’m sure you know, polygraph machines are bullshit. But if you listen closely, maybe you’ll guess correctly a little more often.