The eyes don't have it: lie detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40259. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040259. Epub 2012 Jul 11.


Proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) claim that certain eye-movements are reliable indicators of lying. According to this notion, a person looking up to their right suggests a lie whereas looking up to their left is indicative of truth telling. Despite widespread belief in this claim, no previous research has examined its validity. In Study 1 the eye movements of participants who were lying or telling the truth were coded, but did not match the NLP patterning. In Study 2 one group of participants were told about the NLP eye-movement hypothesis whilst a second control group were not. Both groups then undertook a lie detection test. No significant differences emerged between the two groups. Study 3 involved coding the eye movements of both liars and truth tellers taking part in high profile press conferences. Once again, no significant differences were discovered. Taken together the results of the three studies fail to support the claims of NLP. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Lie Detection*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurolinguistic Programming*
  • Thinking
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult