As ITV’s Liar Shows, Spotting Deception Is Harder Than It Looks
Chris N. H. Street, 10 Oct 17

Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd star in the ITV drama about an alleged rape. ITVpictures

The smash-hit ITV drama Liar has left viewers up and down the country scrutinising their screens, trying to work out which character has been telling the truth. The series tells the story of Laura, who goes on a date with handsome doctor Andrew, only to wake up the next morning believing she was raped.

Most people like to think that if they found themselves in a genuine situation where they needed to tell the difference between fact and fiction they would be able to. But research shows that when it comes to spotting a liar, most people are very inaccurate – they might as well just flip a coin to try and decide.

It also seems that most of us tend to believe others are telling the truth more often than they actually are. This is called the “truth bias”. And this bias may in part be because research has shown the majority of people tell the truth most of the time. So if there is no evidence otherwise, it makes sense to guess someone is telling the truth because that’s more likely.

Why lie?

Although people’s reasons for lying vary along with the severity of the lie – from getting out of a meal with a friend to lying about a criminal offence – in the end there is always some goal to achieve.

In short, people lie because it is more likely to get them what they wantcompared with telling the truth. But of course, this only works when the risk of getting caught lying is low – research has shown that people tend to weigh up the risks of getting caught before deciding whether or not to lie.

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