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Lie-Spotting Tip: Clearing your Throat

2 Jan 2017

Lie-Spotting Tip: Clearing your Throat


You’ve got your suspect exactly where you need him. The time has come to ask the question, “Have you been eating my Doritos?”

As he wipes his powdered orange-stained fingers on his jeans, his Adams-apple lifts up and down in a long hard swallow.

“Ha! I’ve got him now!” you think to yourself. And you may be right.

A liar will often clear his throat or swallow before weaving a tale of deception. It allows him time to think of a convincing response. Clearing the throat also releases tension on the vocal chords, helping the liar avoid a sudden change in vocal pitch, another red flag of deception. In fact, up to 90% of lies are accompanied by a change in pitch.

But not so fast!

There could be many other reasons why someone might clear his throat or swallow before answering a question. Perhaps it is a personal habit that this person exhibits after all questions, a reaction to an environmental irritant, a symptom of illness, or simply a randomly expressed behavior.

To successfully uncover deception, it is important to look for clusters of behaviors at key moments. These behaviors may be seen across several channels of communication including body language, micro expressions, tone, and verbal content and style.

Your Dorito’s thief may have shown a sign of deception with his deliberate swallow, but it is the dirty fingers, and other evidence that will seal his fate.

And just in case you’re wondering, if your suspect clears his throat AFTER answering your question, it means absolutely nothing at all.