Write way to spot a liar: How your handwriting could betray if you’re economical with the truth

By David Derbyshire

If you want to know if someone is telling you the truth, don’t analyse their body language, eye movements and choice of words.

Apparently, the real sign of a liar is in how he or she writes.

Scientists claim to have discovered a series of tell-tale clues in the handwriting of fibbers.

Not all in the eyes: Scientists say the way to spot a liar is by looking at their handwriting Not all in the eyes: Scientists say the way to spot a liar is by looking at their handwriting

They found those who write lies press harder on the paper, have longer strokes of the pen and produce taller letters than those telling the truth.

The differences are too subtle to see with the naked eye, but can be detected using a computer and a touch-sensitive pad.

The study’s authors stressed that the research is in its earliest stage, but says the system could one day be used to test the veracity of loan applications or insurance claims.

Researchers at the University of Haifa, Israel, asked 34 volunteers to write two short paragraphs, one recalling a real memory, the other a fictitious event.

A handwriting example

The volunteers used a wireless electronic pen with a pressure-sensitive tip to write their memories and lies on paper placed on a computer tablet, which monitored and
analysed their writing style.

‘In the false writing condition, the average pressure, stroke length and height were significantly higher than in the true writing condition,’ the researchers reported in the
Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Psychologists suggested that lying changes handwriting because it forces the brain to work harder to invent facts, interfering with the normal writing process.

Professor Richard Wiseman, psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, said the technique was promising, but needed testing on a much bigger scale.

‘We know that people hesitate more when they lie and some companies already use this fact to see how long it takes people to tick boxes when filling in surveys online,’ he said.

He pointed out that traditional polygraph lie detectors were unreliable and ‘messy’.

By contrast a handwriting test would be less intrusive and could be used at a job
interview for example.

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