By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From jury selection to questioning witnesses to closing arguments, trials are part law, part strategy and part psychology.

“We have to look and listen and, most importantly, we have to know what types of questions to ask, said Dr. Wendy Patrick, an attorney and behavior analyst who wrote the book “Red Flags: Frenemies, Underminers, and Ruthless People.”

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So, how can you tell when someone is lying? Good Question.

“The body language is always more important than the words,” Patrick said. “That’s for the simple reason that you’re much more in control of what you say than how you say it.”

Wendy Patrick (credit: CBS)

When asked how people know if they’re getting the whole truth, people’s answers range from showing hesitation to fidgeting to foot-tapping to changing details to lack of eye contact.

Patrick says, often, those types of things don’t give you a true picture.

For example, she says fidgeting isn’t always a sign of dishonesty.

“Cognitive load renders us more motionless than you might imagine,” she says. “If you’re trying hard to think, or reveal as little as possible, we’re thinking so hard that sometimes we’re moving much less.”

And, diverting the eyes? She says that’s a big misconception.

“People can look you right in the eye and lie to you,” Patrick says.

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She also points out there could be cultural reasons that people might not look you in the eye, and it may have nothing to do with not telling the truth.

So, Patrick looks for other signs – like is the person defensive? Uncomfortable? Does their story match their emotions?

“If I’m telling you a story that’s heartbreaking and I’m smiling, that’s a huge tell,” she says.

Patrick also looks closely at a person’s smile – is it genuine or not?

“The credibility of crow’s feet is something that I teach on,” she says. “That means I’m more likely to be telling the truth because I’m comfortable with what I’m saying.”

When it comes to body language, she searches for signs of discomfort – like stiffness or crossed arms or if the person is trying to move away.

“There’s something that’s making this person uncomfortable and I need to know more about it,” she says.

Patrick says there are no dead giveaways when it comes to determining if someone is giving the truth or a lie.

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“If there were any dead giveaways, then we would be better at telling a liar from a truth teller than we’d like to believe,” she says.

Heather Brown