Lie detection services: what happens to the body when we lie?



An American study undertaken in 2002 revealed that on average, around 60% of people lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation. Most of the participants told an average of 2 to 3 lies. When we take into consideration the small “white lies” we utter almost without really noticing that we are doing it. But what are the long and short-term implications of lying, and what exactly happens to the body when we lie? In just a few minutes of reading, find out more about the psychological and physiological consequences of lying, as well as how some of these reactions can be picked up during lie detection services.


A brief history of lying


If there is one thing that history can tell us about lying, it is that people have always thought that there was too much of it. Many scholars argue that the proclivity to lie is inextricably rooted in our evolutionary history. Other primates have, on many occasions, have also exhibited deception and cheating. When it comes to humans, children are good examples of how pervasive deceit can be. Between the ages of 2 and 5, children tend to pick up the behaviour and many professionals believe that it is in a fact a milestone in cognitive growth.




But is lying more prevalent in our society than ever before? Some seem to think so, others not. Technically speaking, the fact that there are more people in the world now than ever before means that proportionally, more lies are being told. Old religious scripture warned that “every man is a liar,” while 16th century writers, such as the French sceptic Pierre Charron, believed that all of mankind is false and deceitful. Where most lies are trivial and told just to maintain the peace or boost another’s confidence, more sinister lies can have devastating consequences – as history has shown us – especially in the political realm.


What does lying do to the body?


Being dishonest causes the brain to enter a state of heightened alert, and when stress is added as a result, the magnitude of the lie is increased. But why would the brain itself care about being honest or deceitful? The answer: reputation. As social beings, our reputation is of prime importance. As a result, most of us dedicatedly work to promote and maintain some image of integrity and trustworthiness.


With the knowledge that dishonesty risks significant damage to the reputation, lying is a rather stressful activity. When engaging in some or other form of deceit, both our heart rates and respiratory patterns increase. Our mouths may go dry, sweat levels increase or our voices may falter or shake. These are some aspects that are detectable during lie detection services, such as those offered by us at Polygraph Truths.


Due to differences in individual brains, different people vary in their lying capabilities. As an extreme example, people considered to be sociopaths lack the ability to feel empathy and as a result, often do not exhibit the archetypal physiological responses when telling a lie. Sociopaths are known to be able to pass lie detection services in many cases. If carefully trained to do so, frequent liars can pass a polygraph test during lie detection services by remaining calm.


Studies surrounding brain imaging are becoming more informative in the effort to learn about the body’s response to lying. It has been discovered that symptoms of anxiety materialise while being deceitful due to the fact that lying activates the brain’s limbic system. This is the same area that controls the “fight or flight” response that is triggered during other types of stresses and predicaments. When being honest, imaging shows this area of the brain exhibiting minimal activity – whereas during a lie, it lights up significantly, proving that when lying, the brain often becomes frantic.


How do lie detection services, such as the polygraph instrument, pick up on bodily reactions to lying


As previously mentioned, the polygraph instrument, which often forms the basis of lie detection services, is able to record the typical bodily reactions to lying. Many mistakenly assume that the instrument is able to detect lies themselves, but this is not the case. The polygraph instrument monitors the three most common aspects of reaction in which the average person may experience symptoms of stress and fear if telling a lie.




These three aspects include sweat, blood pressure and heart rate, as well as respiratory rate. Sweat levels are measured through electrodes attached to the fingers, while the heart rate and blood pressure are measured through an arm cuff. The respiratory rate is measured through chest straps attached to the person undergoing the polygraph examination. Any significant changes are tracked by the instrument and analysed by a lie detection services professional.


In this sense, there is much more to a polygraph than the polygraph instrument. It is also up to the examiner to detect whether or not the person being examined is being deceitful. Examiners examine the patterns recorded by the polygraph instrument in response to certain questioned posed, and reach a final verdict by considering all the variables. Further, pre-test questioning is also conducted in order to gauge a “standard” for the responses of the individual being examined.


The long-term effects of lying


According to certain studies, constant lying and deception, in addition to the short-term discomfort and stress of the practice, can take a significant toll on one’s health. Frequent lying has been associated with a number of negative health consequences, such as an increased heartrate, high blood pressure, elevated stress hormones in the blood as well as vasoconstriction. The latter refers to the constriction, or narrowing, of blood vessels by small muscles in their walls. When these vessels constrict, blood flow becomes slowed, and in some cases, blocked.


Some other studies disagree, arguing that the long-term effects of lying would be minimal since it seems as if humans become more comfortable with lying the more they do it – which would subsequently reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety most of us feel when we tell lies or attempt to deceive. Essentially, these studies suggest that we develop a tolerance to being devious – a rather unsettling suggestion.


Does lying change the brain?




According to Scientific American, a new study has confirmed that lying gets easier the more a person lies – since the frequent act allegedly changes the brain. Other scholars reported that the amygdala, a part of the brain that deals with emotional responses, lights up less and less in scans the more we lie. To be frank, our feelings of guilt decrease the more we lie. Further, it has been argued that lies for the sake of helping the liar further decrease the response from the amygdala.


Should our brains be able to shine up to the act of lying, it would explain why society holds such disdain for dishonesty, and why some people are so unwilling to give liars a second chance. These social rules and expectations, as well as the consequences that come with breaking them, may in fact be what keeps most of us honest, at the end of the day.


Mental conditions and illnesses to do with lying


It is no surprise that lying comes easier to some than it does to others. This is especially true when considering individuals with conditions and mental illnesses that oftentimes make lying a walk in the park, or a staple part of their day. For example, take pathological liars. People with this condition tell compulsive lies often without a specific motive in mind.


This is confusing for the everyday individual, since most of us tell lies to advance a motive or with a specific goal in mind. Pathological liars often utilise a different type of lying than nonpathological lying (in which the lie is beneficial in some way). Where the average person may tell a lie to avoid embarrassment or schmooze with an employer, it is true that some people lie more frequently than others – which does not necessarily signify the presence of a mental health condition. Naturally, pathological lying is different, and is often indicative of an underlying mental health issue, such as a personality disorder.


Dictionaries define pathological liars as people who lie compulsively without any clear benefit. It is often unclear whether the person pathologically lying is even aware of their deceit – or has any ability at all to think rationally about their lies. Pathological lying can have an extremely detrimental effect on one’s social life and regularly leads to considerable interpersonal issues with colleagues and loved ones. People with the condition may be able to pass a polygraph test issued during lie detection services, simply due to practice.




Psychopaths are also known to succeed in passing lie detection services, since they lack empathy and remorse – two key human traits that cause the physiological reactions measurable by polygraph devices as a result of lying. Another aspect that makes psychopaths stand apart from the average person is their persistent antisocial behaviour. Academics and professionals alike often disagree about whether the lack of empathy and remorse are a result of biological determinants or alternatively, one’s upbringing. Whatever the cause, however, everyone can agree that people considered to be psychopaths feel neither guilt about lying, nor fear being caught red-handed in the act.


Because of this, they are generally unafraid of making errors while lying, which stops their bodies from exhibiting the tell-tale reactions to lying that lie detection services experts are so great at spotting. Some famous examples of psychopaths include:


Ted Bundy: responsible for the murder of at least 30 people across the United States of America. He was difficult to catch due to his powers of deceit and manipulation of those closest to him. After all was said and done, however, even his lawyer described him as a “heartless evil.”


Ed Gein: the basis for fictional characters such as Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs; Norman Bates from Psycho as well as Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gein is one of the most well-known pathological liars in history. He was finally reprimanded in 1957 and committed to a mental institution.


Charles Manson: one of the most feared and infamous ringleaders to date, Manson used psychopathic manipulation to gain a cult following during the 1960s. As well as personally murdering people, he was able to convince some of his most dedicated followers to commit murders on his behalf.


John Wayne Gacy: known by his colleagues and neighbours as “outgoing,” the construction worker Gacy was frequently involved with politics and even played the role of a clown at birthday parties. It turned out, much to his neighbours’ horror, that this charismatic individual possessed 30 bodies in the crawl-space under his home. Gacy was eventually convicted of murder on 33 counts.