Disinformation

FALSE: You can tell if someone is lying through hand gestures alone

Rappler
FALSE: You can tell if someone is lying through hand gestures alone
Many theories exist, but none of them is reliable enough to tell by hand gestures alone if someone is lying or not
At a glance
  • Claim: A graphic circulating on social media says that based on “psychology facts,” a person usually makes a lot of hand gestures when telling a true story. Meanwhile, when telling a lie, a person’s hands will stay noticeably still.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: Many theories do exist, but none of them is reliable enough to tell by hand gestures alone if someone is lying or not. There is also no cross-culturally consistent body language that would label someone as a liar or a truth-teller.
  • Why we fact-checked this: Several readers emailed the graphic to Rappler for verification. One of the posts has gained around 14,000 reactions, 1,800 comments, and over 6,300 shares, as of writing. This claim has also been circulating on various social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter.
Complete details

A graphic circulating on social media says that based on “psychology facts,” a person usually makes a lot of hand gestures when telling a true story. Meanwhile, when telling a lie, a person’s hands will stay noticeably still.

The graphic depicts a comparison between the hand gestures of 2022 presidential aspirants Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Leni Robredo.

Several readers emailed the graphic to Rappler for verification. One of the posts has gained around 14,000 reactions, 1,800 comments, and over 6,300 shares, as of writing. This claim has also been circulating on various social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter.

The same content was reposted in numerous pro-administration Facebook groups, personal accounts, and pages.

This claim is false.

Several decades of empirical research have shown that non-verbal signs (or gestures) are not a reliable indicator to detect lying vs. truthfulness.

Deception research, which includes experiments through intentional misleading of subjects, has also revealed that paying attention to nonverbal cues alone results in being less accurate in truth/lie discrimination. This causes a lie bias, which is due to stereotypical beliefs about the behavior of liars rather than of truth-tellers – such as lack of eye contact and unnecessary hand movements. This has been repeatedly stated in several studies released in 2004, 2006, and 2007.

Additionally, various theories about nonverbal communication and deception exist, but they do not fully explain why liars behave the way they do and that people are mediocre lie catchers, particularly if they only have visual cues. This is because nonverbal cues to deception are faint and unreliable, but verbal cues to deceit are more diagnostic, as pointed out in the 2003 study “Cues to Deception.”

Five other studies in 1969, 1977, 1980, 1998, and 2010 all pointed out that the differences in the way humans convey emotions and intellectual behaviors are influenced by several factors, such as age, gender, posture, cultural influences, personal experiences, situational factors, context, and so on.

A 2005 study also said that in order to make credible discrimination between a truthful and a deceitful statement, both verbal and nonverbal cues should be considered. – Jefson Romeo Felix/Rappler.com

Jefson Romeo Felix is a volunteer of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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