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Lying eyes? They're no guide to the truth

Lying eyes are a myth, despite the common belief that no fibber can hide behind them, research has shown.

For decades experts have been convinced that eye movements can reveal when someone is lying.

Many psychologists believe that when a person looks up to their right, they are likely to be telling a lie. Glancing up to the left, on the other hand, is said to indicate honesty.

Sharon Collins, (47) of Kildysart Road in Ennis, Co Clare made the term 'Lying Eves' infamous in Ireland when she was sentenced to six years in jail in October 2008 for soliciting a man to kill her partner PJ Howard and his two sons.

During the trial, the court was told that Collins used the name 'Lying Eyes' to contact hitman Essam Eid by email.

Professor Richard Wiseman and his team of researchers claim the link between lying and eye movements is a key element of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a method of enhancing people's lives using psychological techniques.

An important aspect of NLP involves teaching people about the relationship between eye movements and thought.

According to the theory, when right-handed people look up to their right, they are likely to be visualising a "constructed" or imagined event.

In contrast, when they look to their left, they are visualising a "remembered" memory.

For this reason, liars tend to look to the right.

The idea was tested by filming volunteers and recording their eye movements as they told the truth or lied.

A second group of volunteers was then asked to watch the films and try to detect the lies by watching the eye movements.

Prof Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, said: "The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills."

A follow-up study involved analysing videos of high-profile press conferences in which people appealed for help in finding missing relatives, or claimed to have been victims of crime.

While some were telling the truth, others turned out to be lying.

hnews@herald.ie