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Deception: Eye Movement & Deception – Reliable?

A myth perpetuated for about 25 years, law enforcement training has bought into the notion that merely watching the movement of a person’s eyes would reveal if a person is being truthful or deceptive.  This concept has taught criminal justice academies frequently citing Richard Bandler and John Grinder who developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming as the source for the concept.  To date there has been no published peer-reviewed scientific research supporting the concept although many of the folks teaching the concept claim “90%” accuracy at spotting deception.

Point of interest – in their original work Frogs into Princes on  Bandler and Grinder stated “… many people reconstruct their memories…”  which totally contradicts the claims made by the misinformed instructors.

John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair discuss the question of eye accessing cues experiments in their book Whispering in the Wind, pages 80-81 (2001).  In one experiment they tested whether eye movement could be used to determine if someone was lying. This was is what the found from their research:

“Eye accessing cues show whether a person is remembering or constructing a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic “image”.  A constructed image is not necessarily false, so the answer is “No, you cannot tell whether someone is lying just by watching their eye movements”.

Here is a great starting point to study the misuse of N.L.P. principles as an analytical tool to spot deception via eye movement. This paper discusses something around 60 studies that refute the claim of using eye movement to spot deception.

In the conclusion of this study, it is noted by the authors that “detecting lies on the basis of eye movement is reprehensible.”

Check it out for yourself.  Be sure to follow the source bibliography and read the additional supporting studies mentioned.

Neuro-linguistic programming and the police: Worthwhile or not?by Aldert Vrij and Shara K. Lochun

Journal of Police & Criminal Psychology, Vol 12, Number 1, 1998.


In the seventies Bandler and Grinder (1975, 1979; Grinder & Bandler, 1976) developed their model of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). The aim of this model is to facilitate communication between persons (Particularly between counselors and clients). There is a growing body of literature on NLP; it is nowadays even used in a police context (Gray, 1991; Mayers, 1993; Rhoads & Solomon, 1987). What does NLP mean? To what extent does empirical research support the NLP-model? And, to what extent is NLP useful for the police? This article addresses these three questions.
In the Level 1 & 2 Practical Kinesic Interview & Interrogation® we spend time debunking these and other myths that destroy an interrogator’s ability to accurately spot deception in a subject’s behaviors.

Stan B. Walters, CSP “The Lie Guy®”
Practical Kinesic Interview & Interrogation®

YouTube: Eye Contact & Deception Cues

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