Children’s prepared and unprepared lies: can adults see through their strategies?

Just to show how bad people are at detecting lies, even 11-13 year old kids can easily pull the wool over our eyes! Leif Stromwall and collegues in Sweden found that adults could do no better than 46% accuracy when children had a chance to prepare their lies. Even when lies were not prepared they only got 57% correct:

We investigated adults’ ability to detect children’s prepared and unprepared lies and truths. Furthermore, we examined children’s strategies when lying. Thirty children (11-13 years) were interviewed about one self-experienced and one invented event each. Half had prepared their statements, the other half not. Sixty adult observers assessed the veracity of 10 videotaped statements each. Overall deception detection accuracy (51.5%) was not better than chance. The adults showed higher accuracy for unprepared statements (56.6%), than prepared statements (46.1%). The adults reported to have used more verbal than nonverbal cues to deception, especially the Detail criterion. The most frequent verbal strategy reported by the children was to use real-life components (e.g. own or others’ experiences); the most frequent nonverbal strategy was to stay calm. Arguably, the low accuracy is due to adults’ failure to see through the lying children’s strategies. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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