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Lie detectors are unreliable because everyone has a different way of communicating nonverbally. Image Credit: Stock photo/Pexels

Contrary to what the movies tell us, there is no accurate way of knowing whether a person is lying or not – even polygraph tests don’t really work.

Click start to play today’s Word Search and see if you can spot all the nonverbal communication gestures.

How we use our voice and gesture with our hands makes a remarkable difference in the way we communicate. In 1967, a University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) psychology professor Albert Mehrabian coined the ‘7/38/55 ratio’ for how much weight listeners place on three elements.

He conducted a series of experiments and determined that seven per cent of meaning is conveyed through verbal communication, 38 per cent through vocal and 55 per cent through body language. And he stated that if the verbally spoken words and body language disagree, then the truth lies in the body language.

But the problem is, everyone has a different way of communicating nonverbally.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), most psychologists agree that there is little evidence that polygraph tests can detect lies. It’s because of an underlying problem: there are no patterns of reactions or gestures that are unique to deception. Someone who is being interrogated could start sweating and have a high heart rate – but this reaction could be from fear rather than conclusive evidence that the person is a liar.

Even as psychologists around the world continue to search for a definitive way to catch a person in a lie, they find that there are some nonverbal gestures that have culturally specific meaning. Known as emblems, the gestures take the place of spoken words. For instance, the thumbs-up sign or the ‘okay’ symbol made with the thumb and forefinger are part of the nonverbal vocabulary of some cultures.

Facial expressions of emotions are universal, because the same facial muscles are used when we feel certain emotions like sadness, happiness and so on.

Other nonverbal ways to convey messages include body posture, the amount of physical distance we give to someone, and our vocal tone. With so many aspects of communication to consider, and technological tools like emails and texts getting rid of most of them, it’s no wonder that miscommunication is costing businesses in the US between $4,000 (Dh 14,692) and $6,000 (Dh22,039) per employee each year, according to a survey of 400 companies, published in a report by US-based Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Do you pay special attention to your nonverbal cues? Play today’s Word Search and tell us at games@gulfnews.com.