Clinton's Lie Detector
Found To Be His Nose
By Kevin Davis
Special for USA TODAY
President Clinton has demonstrated that honesty is at the tip of the nose.
So says Alan Hirsch, a neurologist and psychiatrist who studied how often the president touched his nose during his grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, and Charles Wolf, a psychiatry student from the University of Illinois College of Medicine, analyzed the president's testimony as part of a study on lying.
They will present their findings Wednesday in Washington at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
Hirsch and Wolf reviewed Clinton's Aug. 17 videotaped deposition, in which he denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. They found he touched his nose 26 times per minute during answers later revealed to be untruthful, compared to not touching his nose during truthful segments.
Hirsch says there's a physiological explanation: "When one lies, erectile tissue inside the nose engorges. In response to this swelling, the nose itches."
Hirsch and Wolf identified 23 verbal and nonverbal signs of lying, from throat-clearing to lip-licking.
Brian Jayne, director of research and development for John E. Reid and Associates, a Chicago consulting firm on criminal interrogation and polygraph use, says that simply looking for these signals can be misleading.
"You've got to look at the subject's overall behavior and read it in context with the statement the person is making and the environment in which it's given," he says.
Hirsch cautions that in any single speech, the 23 signs prove nothing. Their frequency must be compared to a truthful control period, and other factors such as stress often can cause these signs.
Hirsch said that aside from scratching his nose, Clinton showed an increase in stuttering, swallowing, clearing his throat, touching his face and averting his gaze during his testimony.
The White House declined to comment on the study.