Another Brain Myth Debunked
Have you ever heard that people look to the right when they lie? A series of three studies just published this afternoon in the journal PLoS ONE found no connection between the direction of eye movement and telling a lie. Sarah Sparks reports in EdWeek:
“A team of University of Edinburgh, Scotland researchers led by psychologist Caroline Watt first videotaped 32 college students twice, both lying and telling the truth in relation to hiding a small object in an office. They then asked 64 reviewers to view the videos on both slow and regular speeds, checking for the direction and time of eye movements; they found no differences in either the time or the direction of students’ gaze based on whether the students were telling the truth. Moreover, in a separate related study, reviewers were no more accurate or confident in gauging whether one of the videoed subjects was lying based on their eye movements. In a final study, this time of police videos related to missing persons cases, in which the subject was later shown to be lying or telling the truth, the researchers also found no difference in eye movement between liars and those telling the truth.
Sure, this study is cool—I’d always heard the eyes-right-means-a-lie tip, too—but what how does it affect education, beyond sending teachers back to the drawing board when it comes to judging kids’ homework excuses? The eye movement-lying concept is based on a theory that looking to the left triggers ‘remembered’ events, while looking right accesses ‘constructed’ events, similar to the common misconception that people can be logical or creative based on which brain hemisphere is dominant. It’s one more example of how easy it is for a limited research finding to take hold in practice.” Read more here.
I really like Sparks’s last point: it’s important to retain our skepticism about much-repeated maxims about how the brain works, such as “we only use 10% of our brains” and “people are left-brained or right-brained”—the list goes on and on.