The art of the lie: Detecting deception in Donald Trump’s statements

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

The concepts of lying and deception have recently come to the forefront in American politics, with terms such as ‘pathological liar’, ‘post-truth’, and ‘fake news’ dominating political discourse. This project analyzes statements made by Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential debates, which were independently fact-checked and rated to be true, mostly true, half true, mostly false or false, to explore whether Trump’s speech and/or para-linguistic behavior could provide cues as to whether he was engaging in deception. We analyzed dysfluencies and hesitations, blink rate, gaze, gestures, and smiles. A double blind coding protocol was implemented - i.e. the coder did not know which statements were true or false when coding the statements. The results suggest that only blink rate and smiles showed promise in identifying whether or not Trump was lying. Specifically, Trump’s blink rate range increased when he made false or mostly false statements compared to true, mostly true and half true statements. Furthermore, Trump more frequently smiled with no involvement of the muscles around the eyes (which would indicate actual enjoyment) when lying than when telling the truth. Overall, neither Trump’s speech nor his body language provided cues for deception. Instead, some subtle changes in his facial dynamics provided cues to deception. Currently ongoing analyses are underway to explore whether response latency and speech rate may be additional cues to deception in Trump’s speech.


  • Deception, Trump, blink rate, gesture
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
EventGermanic Society for Forensic Linguistics - University of Graz, Graz, Austria
Duration: 5 Sep 20198 Sep 2019


ConferenceGermanic Society for Forensic Linguistics
Abbreviated titleGSFL2019
Internet address
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