I have heard that people look up and to the left if they are not truthful, and up and to the right if they are telling the truth. Is there any truth to this?
You are probably talking about eye accessing cue of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).
NLP is a pseudo-science and many skeptics & experts expressed their opinion in various documents.
Criticisms about NLP commonly mention:
- It's a pseudo-science (no scientific proof provided)
- It references outdated theories
- It uses manipulation and misinterpretation
- It may be sectarian in some cases
NLP is a huge success because it makes people believe they will be able to control others.
I firmly believe NLP is a huge brainscam.
- Christian Balicco's article in French (translatable using Google). Christian has a PhD in Psychology and is a member of the American Psychological Association. He wrote another article published on an anti sectarian website.
- NLP listed as a sectarian organisation in an anti-sectarian association report.
- Detailed description from Skeptic's Dictionary.
- Interview of Albert Mehrabian about misinterpretation body language formula.
- Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions About the Mind and Brain (book)
- Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology: A Handbook of Best Practices (NLP is used here to describe what a pseudoscience is for undergraduates in Psychology)
Richard Bandler and John Grinder proposed in Frog into Princes that the direction in which people look when they access information has something to do with the mental processes that they use to access the information.
The proposed that subjects look instinctively to their right when they construct a new mental image but look to their left when they remember something.
They propose the principle as a general rule but at the same time assert that there are individuals differences between people. An NLP practitioner is supposed to look whether the rule applies to a certain individual at certain question where he knows that the person remembers something to calibrate to the specific individual.
NLP practitioners are supposed to train their calibration skills through practice. As far as I know there are no studies that investigate whether trained NLP practictioners can use the eye accessing cues to infer something about the mental state of another person.
Kevin Hogan did an experiment in which he tried to test his interpretation of NLP's eye accessing cues. He found that eye accessing cues didn't work the way he saw them portrayed in the NLP literature.
NLP practitioners on the other hand assert that Hogan's experiment tested a misunderstanding of their eye accessing cues concept.
In any case it isn't as simple as having a straightforward rule that you precisely whether the other person is lying.