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Want to Flush Out a Liar? Watch for That Telltale Blush

January 07, 2002|Linda Marsa

Blushing is often taken as a symptom of embarrassment, but it also may be a that people are lying. At least, that's the conclusion of researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Using a heat-sensing camera, they detected a faint blush around eyes of study participants who were lying; the blush, researchers say, is a sign of deception.

In an experiment involving 20 Army recruits, some participants were assigned to stage a fake robbery by stabbing a mannequin and stealing $20 from its clothing; others were assigned to avoid the "crime." They were then interrogated, and their responses were filmed using a high-resolution thermal imaging camera. Six of eight of the "robbers," who were told to lie about their exploits, exhibited that faint blush around the eyes, which researchers believe is a primitive fright-flight response that's triggered when people are being deceptive. In contrast, 11 of the 12 recruits withstood this thermal scrutiny and were correctly deemed innocent. (One blushed despite being innocent.)

Criminologists aren't convinced that this heat-sensing technology would accurately predict guilt or innocence in real-life situations. Still, Mayo Clinic researchers plan further tests to investigate their potential security applications.

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Linda Marsa

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