The interesting thing about telling lies, according to the 25-year-old performer Stuart Lightbody, is that lies tell. In his show, Telling Lies, he demonstrates how our bodies give us away when we are dishonest. From the speed at which we blink, to tiny “mouth shrugs”, there is always something to give us away.
After four years at Cape Town’s College of Magic, and extensive research into Paul Ackman, the developer of the hit TV series Lie to Me, Lightbody is a master of lie detection. His show includes some slick and professional sleights of hand with coins. But unlike most magicians, Lightbody explains his technique to the audience, daring them to work it out.
Despite knowing how it is done, he is so skilled at deception that audiences remain mystified. One of his most fascinating feats is figuring out what playing card a stranger is thinking of: suit and value.
Little details big secrets
It might seem magical, but as with most mysteries, there is science behind it. According to Lightbody, the police use lie-detection principles as part of their interrogation technique. There has been a great deal of research into signs such as eye movements, which give clues as to what people are thinking.
How long people take before answering a question or how many latent pauses they use when talking, and how little or how much people use hand gestures can tell someone experienced in the techniques a lot. “All of those things can give a liar away,” says Lightbody. “There isn’t just one ‘tell’ that every liar will do when they lie.
You look for a cluster of them, and then you know.” This is not just a science for police. Lightbody is also an avid poker player, and he uses his skills when he plays. Telling Lies is a riveting show if you’re a card player, if you want to know when your spouse or teenager is lying, or if you just want to be amazed and enthralled.