Quick deception links from December 2010

Here are the deception-related crimepsychblog tweets from last month.

Technology-facilitated deception detection (brain scans and machines that go ping):

Interviewing (deception detection the good ole fashion’d way):

  • Eliciting Cues to False Intent: A New Application of Strategic Interviewing http://retwt.me/1QhzA
  • Influence of Investigator Bias on the Elicitation of True & False Confessions http://retwt.me/1QhzB
  • Looks & Lies: Physical Attractiveness in Online Dating Self-Presentation and Deception. Communication Research 37(3) http://retwt.me/1QgIz

And some other deception-related stuff that caught my eye:

Quick deception links

The news that made me happiest in the last few weeks is here: Government abandons lie detector tests for catching benefit cheats (The Guardian, 9 Nov):

The government has dropped plans to introduce controversial lie detector tests to catch benefit fraudsters after trials found that the technology is not sufficiently reliable. The Department for Work and Pensions has given up on “voice risk analysis” (VRA) software after spending £2.16m on trials to assess whether the technology can identify people who are trying to fiddle the system when it eavesdrops on their telephone calls to benefit offices.

Though obviously it would have been good if they hadn’t had to spend £2.16 million to find that out.


Open access to Springer journals means you can grab some good deception research for free, but only until 30 November (so hurry) :

  • Interviewers outperform thermal imaging technology in identifying liars & truth-tellers. Great study, FREE til 30/11 http://is.gd/hxePN
  • Police Lie Detection Accuracy: The Effect of Lie Scenario from Law & Human Behavior 33(6) Free access til 30 Nov http://retwt.me/1Pl5J
  • The Reliability of Lie Detection Performance in Law & Human Behavior 2009, currently free access til 30 Nov PDF: http://retwt.me/1Pl6M
  • Outsmarting the Liars: The Benefit of Asking Unanticipated Questions in Law & Human Behavior 2009, currently free access PDF: http://retwt.me/1Pl6l

You can also bag a free copy of new research on trust and deception courtesy of Sage Publishing:

  • Carter, N., & Mark Weber, J. (2010). Not Pollyannas: Higher Generalized Trust Predicts Lie Detection Ability Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1 (3), 274-279 http://retwt.me/1PyQX

Not free (as far as I can tell) but looking interesting:

  • Jo Are You Lying to Me? Temporal Cues for Deception — Journal of Language and Social Psychology http://retwt.me/1PORv
  • In press: Role of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in deception when remembering neutral & emotional events Neurosci Res http://is.gd/hxdN4
  • Neat new study on deceptive groups: Extracting Concealed Information from Groups in J. of Forensic Sciences. http://retwt.me/1PO2N
  • Aw, bless. New research in Psychol Science 21(10) shows 3-yr-olds have highly robust bias to trust what people say. http://is.gd/g5hB2
  • Fascinating in press article on how honesty is rewarded and deception punished across cultures, in Pers Soc Psychol Bull http://is.gd/g5h3s
  • Articles on reality monitoring, deceptive handwriting (ok, this one is free) & false memory in latest issue of Applied Cog Psy 24(8) http://is.gd/g5iAc

And some other miscellaneous articles and blog posts:

  • In The Job Hunt, People Do Lie, But Honesty Pays Off, Study Finds http://retwt.me/1PyQd
  • Misguided: Polygraphs provide false reassurance. Sigh. “Polygraph Testing Against Border Corruption” via Secrecy News http://retwt.me/1Pr4k
  • To detect lies it’s equally as important to be able to detect when someone is being truthful. http://retwt.me/1Pr3Q via @humintell
  • Blog post from @humintell on interesting new research: Are Children Good Liars? http://retwt.me/1Pr3k
  • Is It Always Bad To Lie? Review of a new book on deception, via http://retwt.me/1POR5

A few deception tweets from recent days

  • Insurance “claim fraudsters think too much”. Some great Portsmouth Uni research covered by Irish Independent http://retwt.me/1P8R0
  • “If You Want to Catch a Liar, Make Him Draw” David DiSalvo @Neuronarrative on more great Portsmouth Uni research http://retwt.me/1P8ZB
  • fMRI scans of people with schizophrenia show they have same functional anatomical distinction between truth telling & deception as others http://bit.ly/aO5cI2 via @Forpsych
  • In press: Promising to tell truth makes 8- 16 year-olds more honest (but lectures on morality don’t). Beh Sciences & Law http://is.gd/fCa7X

Quick deception links for the last few weeks

Gah, Twitter update widget broken. Here are the deception-relevant tweets from the last few weeks:

Polygraph and similar:

  • Detecting concealed information w/ reaction times: Validity & comparison w/ polygraph App Cog Psych 24(7) http://is.gd/fhPMW
  • Important (rare) study on polygraph w/ UK sex offenders: leads to more admissions; case mgrs perceive increased risk http://is.gd/eoW4Q

fMRI and other brain scanning:

  • If Brain Scans Really Detected Deception, Who Would Volunteer to be Scanned? J Forensic Sci http://is.gd/eiz2o
  • FMRI & deception: “The production and detection of deception in an interactive game” in Neuropsychologia http://is.gd/eUMO3
  • In the free access PLoS1: fMRI study indicates neural activity associated with deception is valence-related. PLoS One 5(8). http://is.gd/f6IaM

Verbal cues:

  • Distinguishing truthful from invented accounts using reality monitoring criteria – http://ht.ly/2z8FC
  • Detecting Deceptive Discussions in Conference Calls. Linguistic analysis method 50-65% accuracy. SSRN via http://is.gd/eI0bA
  • Effect of suspicion & liars’ strategies on reality monitoring Gnisci, Caso & Vrij in App Cog Psy 24:762–773 http://is.gd/eCFyA

Applied contexts:

  • A new Canadian study on why sex offenders confess during police interrogation (no polygraph necessary) http://is.gd/eoWl7
  • Can fabricated evidence induce false eyewitness testimony? App Cog Psych 24(7) http://is.gd/fhPDd Free access
  • In press, B J Soc Psy Cues to deception in context. http://is.gd/fhPcY Apparently ‘context’ = ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’. Can’t wait for the paper!
  • Can people successfully feign high levels of interrogative suggestibility & compliance when given instructions to malinger? http://ht.ly/2z8Wz

Kids fibbing:

  • Eliciting cues to children’s deception via strategic disclosure of evidence App Cog Psych 24(7) http://is.gd/fhPIS
  • Perceptions about memory reliability and honesty for children of 3 to 18 years old – http://ht.ly/2z8O1

And some other links of interest:

Twitter Updates for 2010-07-31

  • How police interviewers’ influence strategies affect whether suspects from different cultures provide info. http://is.gd/dTgJL #
  • Journal article on investigative interviewing practices in China. http://is.gd/dTh28 #
  • Journal article: Truth bias and regression toward the mean phenomenon in detecting deception. http://is.gd/dTimj #
  • Can the Implicit Association Test be used to distinguish truthful and deceitful witnesses? Yes and no. Journal article: http://is.gd/dTiNI #

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Now on Twitter

It’s still hard to find the time to keep Crimepsychblog and the Deception Blog updated and I am not sure when (if ever) I will have the time to post as regularly as I used to. Meanwhile I’m still finding plenty of interesting links and papers so rather than waiting til I have time to blog about them properly (which will probably be never) I’m going to give Twitter a go. If I’ve configured the plugin correctly then there should be regular digests of the tweets posted to these blogs, so you can carry on watching here, or follow me at http://twitter.com/crimepsychblog.

The Impact of Lie to Me on Viewers’ Actual Ability to Detect Deception


Timothy R. Levine, Kim B. Serota, Hillary C. Shulman (in press). The Impact of Lie to Me on Viewers’ Actual Ability to Detect Deception Communication Research first published on June 17, 2010 doi:10.1177/0093650210362686

The new television series Lie to Me portrays a social scientist solving crimes through his ability to read nonverbal communication. Promotional materials claim the content is based on actual science. Participants (N = 108) watched an episode of Lie to Me, a different drama, or no program and then judged a series of honest and deceptive interviews. Lie to Me viewers were no better at distinguishing truths from lies but were more likely than control participants to misidentify honest interviewees as deceptive. Watching Lie to Me decreases truth bias thereby increasing suspicion of others while at the same time reducing deception detection ability.

Hat tip to Karen Franklin.

Delusion and Confabulation

The first 2010 issue of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry is a special issue on Delusion and Confabulation and includes the following articles:

  • Delusion and confabulation: Overlapping or distinct distortions of reality? Robyn Langdon; Martha Turner
  • Varieties of confabulation and delusion, Michael D. Kopelman
  • The affective neuropsychology of confabulation and delusion, Aikaterini Fotopoulou
  • The role of personal biases in the explanation of confabulation, Kasey Metcalf ; Robyn Langdon ; Max Coltheart
  • Temporal consciousness and confabulation: Is the medial temporal lobe “temporal”? Gianfranco Dalla Barba ; Marie-Françoise Boissé
  • Novel insights into false recollection: A model of déjà vécu, Akira R. O’Connor ; Colin Lever ; Chris J. A. Moulin
  • Strategic retrieval, confabulations, and delusions: Theory and data, Asaf Gilboa
  • Beauty and belief: William James and the aesthetics of delusions in schizophrenia, Vaughan J. Carr
  • Hypnotic illusions and clinical delusions: Hypnosis as a research method, Rochelle E. Cox ; Amanda J. Barnier
  • The misidentification syndromes as mindreading disorders, William Hirstein
  • Abductive inference and delusional belief, Max Coltheart ; Peter Menzies ; John Sutton
  • Confabulation, delusion, and anosognosia: Motivational factors and false claims, Ryan McKay ; Marcel Kinsbourne
  • Delusion and confabulation: Mistakes of perceiving, remembering and believing, Robyn Langdon ;T im Bayne
  • Confabulation and delusion: A common monitoring framework, Martha Turner ; Max Coltheart

Lie-detection biases among male police interrogators, prisoners, and laypersons

I know, I’ve been away a long time, finishing off my doctorate and working hard, so no time for blogging. The doctorate is finally out of the way but I still don’t have masses of spare time. When I can I’ll update these blogs with studies that catch my eye, though I don’t think I’ll be able to comment in depth on many of them in the way that I used to. That’s partly a time issue, but also I haven’t got access to as many full text articles as I did when I was registered at a university. I’ll do what I can.

Here’s a study that sounds like an interesting addition to the literature on what people think of their own lie-detection abilities:

Beliefs of 28 male police interrogators, 30 male prisoners, and 30 male laypersons about their skill in detecting lies and truths told by others, and in telling lies and truths convincingly themselves, were compared. As predicted, police interrogators overestimated their lie-detection skills. In fact, they were affected by stereotypical beliefs about verbal and nonverbal cues to deception. Prisoners were similarly affected by stereotypical misconceptions about deceptive behaviors but were able to identify that lying is related to pupil dilation. They assessed their lie-detection skill as similar to that of laypersons, but less than that of police interrogators. In contrast to interrogators, prisoners tended to rate lower their lie-telling skill than did the other groups. Results were explained in terms of anchoring and self-assessment bias. Practical aspects of the results for criminal interrogation were discussed.

The full text is behind a paywall – I can’t find a direct link so you have to get there by going to the publisher’s website and searching their e-journals.

Stress and Deception in Speech: Evaluating Layered Voice Analysis

Hot off the press in Journal of Forensic Sciences (hat tip Mind Hacks), a study in which a Layered Voice Analysis system was tested independently and found to be effective at the chance level. In other words, you might as well flip a coin.

Here’s the abstract:

This study was designed to evaluate commonly used voice stress analyzers—in this case the layered voice analysis (LVA) system. The research protocol involved the use of a speech database containing materials recorded while highly controlled deception and stress levels were systematically varied. Subjects were 24 each males/females (age range 18–63 years) drawn from a diverse population. All held strong views about some issue; they were required to make intense contradictory statements while believing that they would be heard/seen by peers. The LVA system was then evaluated by means of a double blind study using two types of examiners: a pair of scientists trained and certified by the manufacturer in the proper use of the system and two highly experienced LVA instructors provided by this same firm. The results showed that the “true positive” (or hit) rates for all examiners averaged near chance (42–56%) for all conditions, types of materials (e.g., stress vs. unstressed, truth vs. deception), and examiners (scientists vs. manufacturers). Most importantly, the false positive rate was very high, ranging from 40% to 65%. Sensitivity statistics confirmed that the LVA system operated at about chance levels in the detection of truth, deception, and the presence of high and low vocal stress states.


You’ll find more on Layered Voice Analysis in the voice analysis category on this blog.

fMRI Lie Detection enters the courtroom

UPDATE!  Request to admit No Lie MRI report in California case is withdrawn Stanford Center for Law & the Biosciences Blog, 25 March 09

So depressing. Here’s the coverage so far:

Related links:

Voodoo science in fMRI and voice analysis to detect deception: compare and contrast

Controversy and debate is the driver of scientific progress.  It forces us to re-examine our assumptions, scrutinise our methods and think hard about the meaning of data.  Of course, there is another way of dealing with controversy…

Voodoo science in fMRI

If you’re involved or simply interested in fMRI research you’ll already be well aware of the ongoing debate about Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience [pdf]. If not, you’ll find the detail in coverage all over the psych and neuroblogs by googling the title or simply “voodoo correlations”.

Here’s how it went:

1. Edward Vul, Christine Harris, Piotr Winkielman, and Harold Pashler wrote a critique of a series of recent research studies exploring the neural correlates of various social psychological issues. Their paper was accepted by a peer-reviewed journal and will be published later this year.

2. Authors of those criticised research papers wrote careful defences of their work and pointed out problems in Vul et al’s arguments (here and here).

3. Vul et al. responded to the criticisms here.

And the debate continues – watching from the sidelines you get a sense of the passion and the intellect on both sides, with the process of open debate resulting in further clarification and some concessions (on both sides). Ultimately, this debate will result in better understanding of some important issues and better scrutiny of new research. Scientific progress, in other words.

Voodoo science in deception detection

Compare this to another recent controversy that started in the research literature (hat tip to Mind Hacks).

1. In 2007, the International Journal of Speech Language and the Law (a peer reviewed journal) published a critique by Anders Eriksson and Francisco Lacerda of mechanical methods of deception detection that claim to use ‘voice stress analysis’ or ‘layered voice analysis’ to detect deception. It is more pointed and more personal than the Vul et al. critique (commenting on the companies and the individuals involved in developing and marketing such machines), but the authors nevertheless examine the scientific literature carefully and raise some significant problems with the technology as it is marketed.

2. One of the companies named, Nemesysco, threatened to sue.

3. The publishers of IJSLL withdrew the paper (though, this being the age of the internet, you can access it here).

Rather than publish the potentially ground-breaking scientific evidence underpinning their technique, respond to the criticisms or engage in debate, a company uses legal threats to silence criticism. The result is that we have no chance to hear both sides of the story, little chance of increasing our understanding of the techniques or their theoretical basis, further polarisation of the pro- and anti- camps, and bugger all scientific progress. Shame.

Of course, Nemesysco’s actions do mean that a lot more of us know and are talking about the criticism of their technology than had they let the journal article lie (no pun intended).

“Everyone likes to bust a liar”

If you’re based in the US and you’re interested in deception you can’t have missed the launch of the new TV drama series “Lie to Me” based on the research of Paul Ekman.

Professor Ekman has a long and distinguished record of research on emotions and on lying. In the last few years he has focused on applying his work to practical problems of law enforcement and national security, including developing training packages for professionals who want to become better lie detectors. Ekman’s well-known in the psychological and, increasingly, security/law enforcement community, but the TV drama looks set to make him famous. This may be a good thing for better public understanding of the myths and realities of deception research: Ekman writes a commentary on each episode, explaining the science behind the drama.

There’s a lot of coverage and comment across the web, including a profile of Ekman in the New York Times (20 Jan), commentary and links on the blogs Neuronarrative and Eyes for Lies, and a heap of news articles reviewing and commenting on the series (such as this one from the Calgary Herald).

Malcolm Gladwell’s 2002 New Yorker article, which inspired the TV producer Brian Grazer to develop the idea behind the series, can be read here.

As the NYT profile concludes:

… the combination of crime-solving and insight into how to recognize liars may prove to have potent appeal, Mr. Grazer said. “Everyone likes to bust a liar,” he said.

Research round-up 6: And finally, kids’ lies, online lies and my deception book of the year

Happy new year! Here is the final part of the 2008 deception research round-up, put together to make amends for having neglected this blog over the past few months. This post includes bits and pieces of deception research that didn’t fit too well into the first five round-up posts. Hope you’ve enjoyed them all!


First, a couple of articles about how children learn to lie:

Eye gaze plays a pivotal role during communication. When interacting deceptively, it is commonly believed that the deceiver will break eye contact and look downward. We examined whether children’s gaze behavior when lying is consistent with this belief. …Younger participants (7- and 9-year-olds) broke eye contact significantly more when lying compared with other conditions. Also, their averted gaze when lying differed significantly from their gaze display in other conditions. In contrast, older participants did not differ in their durations of eye contact or averted gaze across conditions. Participants’ knowledge about eye gaze and deception increased with age. This knowledge significantly predicted their actual gaze behavior when lying. These findings suggest that with increased age, participants became increasingly sophisticated in their use of display rule knowledge to conceal their deception.

The relation between children’s lie-telling and their social and cognitive development was examined. Children (3-8 years) were told not to peek at a toy. Most children peeked and later lied about peeking. Children’s subsequent verbal statements were not always consistent with their initial denial and leaked critical information revealing their deceit. Children’s conceptual moral understanding of lies, executive functioning, and theory-of-mind understanding were also assessed. Children’s initial false denials were related to their first-order belief understanding and their inhibitory control. Children’s ability to maintain their lies was related to their second-order belief understanding. Children’s lying was related to their moral evaluations. These findings suggest that social and cognitive factors may play an important role in children’s lie-telling abilities.

Technotreachery – lying via CMC

It’s a popular topic and the literature is growing all the time. Here’s some of the new research published in 2008 about lying in computer-mediated communication:

This study aimed to elaborate the relationships between sensation-seeking, Internet dependency, and online interpersonal deception. Of the 707 individuals recruited to this study, 675 successfully completed the survey. The results showed high sensation-seekers and high Internet dependents were more likely to engage in online interpersonal deception than were their counterparts.

Deception research has been primarily studied from a Western perspective, so very little is known regarding how other cultures view deception… this study proposes a framework for understanding the role Korean and American culture plays in deceptive behavior for both face-to-face (FTF) and computer-mediated communication (CMC). … Korean respondents exhibited greater collectivist values, lower levels of power distance, and higher levels of masculine values than Americans. Furthermore, deceptive behavior was greater for FTF communication than for CMC for both Korean and American respondents. In addition to a significant relationship between culture and deception, differences were found between espoused cultural values and deceptive behavior, regardless of national culture. These results indicate the need for future research to consider cultural differences when examining deceptive behavior.

This study set out to investigate the type of media individuals are more likely to tell self-serving and other-oriented lies, and whether this varied according to the target of the lie. One hundred and fifty participants rated on a likert-point scale how likely they would tell a lie. Participants were more likely to tell self-serving lies to people not well-known to them. They were more likely to tell self-serving lies in email, followed by phone, and finally face-to-face. Participants were more likely to tell other-oriented lies to individuals they felt close to and this did not vary according to the type media. Participants were more likely to tell harsh truths to people not well-known to them via email.

Detecting deception

OK, I know this probably could have gone into an earlier post. However, it does involve a bit of machinery so it didn’t fit in part 1, but the machinery has been in use for several decades so it couldn’t really fit in post 2.

An increasing number of researchers are exploring variations of the Concealed Knowledge Test (CKT) as alternatives to traditional ‘lie-detector’ tests. For example, the response times (RT)-based CKT has been previously shown to accurately detect participants who possess privileged knowledge. Although several studies have reported successful RT-based tests, they have focused on verbal stimuli despite the prevalence of photographic evidence in forensic investigations. Related studies comparing pictures and phrases have yielded inconsistent results. The present work compared an RT-CKT using verbal phrases as stimuli to one using pictures of faces. This led to equally accurate and efficient tests using either stimulus type. Results also suggest that previous inconsistent findings may be attributable to study procedures that led to better memory for verbal than visual items. When memory for verbal phrases and pictures were equated, we found nearly identical detection accuracies.

Deception book of the year

And finally, an important publication in 2008 was the second edition of Aldert Vrij’s Detecting Lies and Deceit: Pitfalls and Opportunities. The first edition (published in 2000) has been one of my key references for scholarly research on deception, along with Paul Ekman’s Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics and Marriage and Granhag and Stronwall’s edited volume on The Detection of Deception in Forensic Contexts. Not surprising then that Vrij’s second edition is already one of the most frequently consulted volumes on my deception bookshelf.

Vrij says that he did not originally envisage updating his 2000 book until at least 2010, but felt with the increasing amount of new research in this area, and increasing interest from law enforcement and security agencies in detecting deception that he could not wait that long. The result is a volume that is substantially updated with research published up to about the middle of 2007. The book has been completely rewritten and there are several new chapters covering recent developments in mechanical methods of deception detection, including brain scanning technologies (e.g., fMRI, P300 brain waves), thermal imaging and voice stress analysis. Vrij also adds a helpful chapter on how professionals can become better lie detectors.

It’s not perfect – I’d welcome more detail on on understanding the reasons why people lie (the book is mostly about catching liars), more on creating a context in which someone is more likely to tell the truth, and more discussion of cross-cultural differences in deception (though to be fair there is shockingly little research in this area to discuss). But despite these criticisms, Vrij’s new book remains a ‘must have’ reference for academics and professionals interested in up-to-date research on deception detection. Practitioners in particular should heed Vrij’s warning about over-hyped techniques for ‘deception detection’: as Vrij says, the best way to avoid falling for the hype is by keeping up to date with the independent, objective research on deception detection. This book is a great tool for giving yourself a grounding in that research.

Phew. Six months’ blogging in 6 days. Hope you enjoyed it!

Research Round-up 5: Polygraphy

Part 5 in the rapid research round-up for 2008 includes some of the articles to appear over the last year relating to physiological detection of deception.

The first paper here is the most interesting to me, particularly because there are rather few published research findings relating to what happens when people are polygraphed in their non-native language, but the others are probably only really of interest to hard-core psychophysiologists. If these all seem pretty heavy then I’d recommend heading over to a delightful post about William Moulton Marsden, one of the early pioneers of the polygraph, written by Romeo Vitelli at the Providentia blog, for some light relief.

Bilingual speakers frequently report experiencing greater emotional resonance in their first language compared to their second. In Experiment 1, Turkish university students who had learned English as a foreign language had reduced skin conductance responses (SCRs) when listening to emotional phrases in English compared to Turkish, an effect which was most pronounced for childhood reprimands. A second type of emotional language, reading out loud true and false statements, was studied in Experiment 2… Results suggest that two factors influence the electrodermal activity elicited when bilingual speakers lie in their two languages: arousal due to emotions associated with lying, and arousal due to anxiety about managing speech production in non-native language. Anxiety and emotionality when speaking a non-naive language need to be better understood to inform practices ranging from bilingual psychotherapy to police interrogation of suspects and witnesses.

The effects of the state of guilt and the context in which critical information was received on the accuracy of the Concealed Information Test (CIT) were examined in a between-subjects mock crime experiment… Results indicated that accomplices were more effectively detected than innocent participants, although both were given the same critical information. Information gathered in the crime context yielded stronger orientation to the critical items than similar information gathered in a neutral context.

The present mock-crime study concentrated on the validity of the Guilty Actions Test (GAT) and the role of the orienting response (OR) for differential autonomic responding. N = 105 female subjects were assigned to one of three groups: a guilty group, members of which committed a mock-theft; an innocent-aware group, members of which witnessed the theft; and an innocent-unaware group… For informed participants (guilty and innocent-aware), relevant items were accompanied by larger skin conductance responses and heart rate decelerations whereas irrelevant items elicited HR accelerations. Uninformed participants showed a non-systematic response pattern.

Following the idea that response inhibition processes play a central role in concealing information, the present study investigated the influence of a Go/No-go task as an interfering mental activity, performed parallel to the Concealed Information Test (CIT), on the detectability of concealed information… No physiological evidence for an interaction between the parallel task and sub-processes of deception (e.g. inhibition) was found. Subjects’ performance in the Go/No-go parallel task did not contribute to the detection of concealed information.

The Concealed Information Test (CIT) requires the examinee to deceptively deny recognition of known stimuli and to truthfully deny recognition of unknown stimuli. Because deception and orienting are typically coupled, it is unclear how exactly these sub-processes affect the physiological responses measured in the CIT…The present study aimed at separating the effects of deception from those of orienting…The findings further support the notion that psychophysiological measures elicited by a modified CIT may reflect different mental processes involved in orienting and deception.

The final part of this research round-up includes papers on children’s deception, and on technotreachery.

Research round-up 4: When people lie

On to part 4 of this series on research published in 2008 that I didn’t get a chance to blog about when it came out, where we take a peek at some of the new research on circumstances in which people lie and what makes them seem credible.

Part 1: Catching liars
Part 2: New technologies
Part 3: Magic

First, lying in an extreme situation: Harpster and her colleagues reported results of a study that suggests that detailed linguistic analysis of calls made to the emergency services can help determine whether the caller might have committed the homicide they are reporting:

This study examined verbal indicators to critically analyze 911 homicide statements for predictive value in determining the caller’s innocence or guilt regarding the offense. One hundred audio recordings and transcripts of 911 homicide telephone calls obtained from police and sheriffs departments throughout the United States provided the database for the study. Using qualitative approaches for formulating the linguistic attributes of these communications and appropriate quantitative analyses of the resulting variables, the likelihood of guilt or innocence of the 911 callers in these adjudicated cases was examined. The results suggest that the presence or absence of as many as 18 of the variables are associated with the likelihood of the caller’s guilt or innocence regarding the offense of homicide. These results are suggestive of up to six distinct linguistic dimensions that may be useful for examination of all homicide calls to support effective investigations of these cases by law enforcement.

Staying in the forensic realm, Tess Neal and Stanley Brodsky wondered how expert witnesses can enhance their credibility. They reported results indicating that eye contact with the lawyer cross-questioning them and with mock jurors enhances the credibility of male experts, though it does not seem to have an impact on female experts’ credibility:

The effect of eye contact on credibility was examined via a 3 (low, medium, high eye contact) x 2 (male, female) between-groups design with 232 undergraduate participants. A trial transcript excerpt about a defendant’s recidivism likelihood was utilized as the experts’ script. A main effect was found: Experts with high eye contact had higher credibility ratings than in the medium and low conditions. Although a confound precluded comparisons between the genders, results indicated that males with high eye contact were more credible than males with medium or low eye contact. The female experts’ credibility was not significantly different regardless of eye contact. Eye contact may be especially important for males: Male experts should maintain eye contact for maximum credibility.

If you’re a rape victim, however, police investigators believe you’re more credible when you cry or show despair whilst giving your evidence:

Credibility judgments by police investigators were examined. Sixty-nine investigators viewed one of three video-recorded versions of a rape victim’s statement where the role was played by a professional actress. The statements were given in a free recall manner with identical wording, but differing in the emotions displayed, termed congruent, neutral and incongruent emotional expressions. Results showed that emotions displayed by the rape victim affected police officers’ judgments of credibility. The victim was judged as most credible when crying and showing despair, and less credible when being neutral or expressing more positive emotions. This result indicates stereotypic beliefs about rape victim behavior among police officers, similar to those found for lay persons. Results are discussed in terms of professional expertise.

From detecting lying by the police to police deception: Geoffrey Alpert and Jeffrey Noble published a discussion piece in Police Quarterly in which they consider the circumstances, nature and impact of conscious, unconscious, ‘acceptable’ and unacceptable lying by police officers:

Police officers often tell lies; they act in ways that are deceptive, they manipulative people and situations, they coerce citizens, and are dishonest. They are taught, encouraged, and often rewarded for their deceptive practices. Officers often lie to suspects about witnesses and evidence, and they are deceitful when attempting to learn about criminal activity. Most of these actions are sanctioned, legal, and expected. Although they are allowed to be dishonest in certain circumstances, they are also required to be trustworthy, honest, and maintain the highest level of integrity. The purpose of this article is to explore situations when officers can be dishonest, some reasons that help us understand the dishonesty, and circumstances where lies may lead to unintended consequences such as false confessions. The authors conclude with a discussion of how police agencies can manage the lies that officers tell and the consequences for the officers, organizations, and the criminal justice system.

In everyday life, when do people think it’s ok to lie? BeverlyMcLeod and Randy Genereux’s results suggest that your personality traits influence what sorts of lying you find acceptable, and when:

The present study investigated the role of individual differences in the perceived acceptability and likelihood of different types of lies. Two-hundred and eighty seven college students completed scales assessing six personality variables (honesty, kindness, assertiveness, approval motivation, self-monitoring, and Machiavellianism) and rated 16 scenarios involving lies told for four different motives (altruistic, conflict avoidance, social acceptance, and self-gain lies). Our central hypothesis that the perceived acceptability and likelihood of lying would be predicted by interactions between personality characteristics of the rater and the type of lie being considered was supported. For each type of lie, a unique set of personality variables significantly predicted lying acceptability and likelihood.

What is the impact of lying? Robert Lount and his colleagues warned that it’s difficult to recover from an early breach of trust in a relationship:

Few interpersonal relationships endure without one party violating the other’s expectations. Thus, the ability to build trust and to restore cooperation after a breach can be critical for the preservation of positive relationships. Using an iterated prisoner’s dilemma, this article presents two experiments that investigated the effects of the timing of a trust breach—at the start of an interaction, after 5 trials, after 10 trials, or not at all. The findings indicate that getting off on the wrong foot has devastating long-term consequences. Although later breaches seemed to limit cooperation for only a short time, they still planted a seed of distrust that surfaced in the end.

And finally, a couple outside the psychology/criminology literature that may be of interest:

Next round up (part 5): research on the psychophysiology of lying.

Research round-up 3: It’s magic

This is the third in the series of posts on research published in 2008 that I didn’t get a chance to blog about when it came out. The last two were pretty long posts so treat this one as a brief bit of light relief before we get down to the serious business of when people lie, in part 4.

Magic is mostly deception for fun, but studying how magicians pull the wool over our eyes can also teach us about how we are deceived by serious and determined liars. 2008 saw not one but two articles arguing for the study of magicial tricks as a vehicle for better understanding human cognition:

  • Gustav Kuhn, Alym A. Amlani and Ronald A. Rensink (2008). Towards a science of magic. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12(9): 349-354

It is argued here that cognitive science currently neglects an important source of insight into the human mind: the effects created by magicians. Over the centuries, magicians have learned how to perform acts that are perceived as defying the laws of nature, and that induce a strong sense of wonder. This article argues that the time has come to examine the scientific bases behind such phenomena, and to create a science of magic linked to relevant areas of cognitive science. Concrete examples are taken from three areas of magic: the ability to control attention, to distort perception, and to influence choice. It is shown how such knowledge can help develop new tools and indicate new avenues of research into human perception and cognition. [Pre-print pdf available]

Just as vision scientists study visual art and illusions to elucidate the workings of the visual system, so too can cognitive scientists study cognitive illusions to elucidate the underpinnings of cognition. Magic shows are a manifestation of accomplished magic performers’ deep intuition for and understanding of human attention and awareness. By studying magicians and their techniques, neuroscientists can learn powerful methods to manipulate attention and awareness in the laboratory. Such methods could be exploited to directly study the behavioural and neural basis of consciousness itself, for instance through the use of brain imaging and other neural recording techniques.

The NRN paper got more press attention, with extensive coverage in the New York Times (11 August 2008) and the Boston Globe (3 August 2008). It was also very nicely summarised by the always-fabulous PsyBlog and commented on by the wonderful Mind Hacks. Meanwhile, the TiCS paper, which got little more than a nod in the Boston Globe, was covered in more detail in the Guardian (25 July).

There’s some more background and links over at the web home of NRN article co-author Susanna Martinez-Conde and at Stephen Macknick’s web site. For fun, here’s another Mind Hacks post on magic. Enjoy!

Next post: Part 4: When people lie

Research round-up 2: New technologies and deception detection

Part two of the Deception Blog round-up of “all those articles I haven’t had a chance to blog about”. Part one was about catching liars via non-mechanical techniques. This post covers articles and discussion about new technologies to detect deception, including fMRI and measurement of Event-Related Potentials.

fMRI and deception: discussion on the journal pages

It’s been quite a year for advances in neuroscience and deception detection, so much so that in a recent paper in of the American Academy of Psychiatry & Law, Daniel Langleben and Frank Dattilio suggested that a new discipline of “forensic MRI” was emerging. One interesting exchange appeared recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry & Law:

…The new approach promises significantly greater accuracy than the conventional polygraph—at least under carefully controlled laboratory conditions. But would it work in the real world? Despite some significant concerns about validity and reliability, fMRI lie detection may in fact be appropriate for certain applications. This new ability to peer inside someone’s head raises significant questions of ethics. Commentators have already begun to weigh in on many of these questions. A wider dialogue within the medical, neuroscientific, and legal communities would be optimal in promoting the responsible use of this technology and preventing abuses.

…The present article concludes that the use of functional imaging to discriminate truth from lies does not meet the Daubert criteria for courtroom testimony.

…we update and interpret the data described by Simpson, from the points of view of an experimental scientist and a forensic clinician. We conclude that the current research funding and literature are prematurely skewed toward discussion of existing findings, rather than generation of new fMRI data on deception and related topics such as mind-reading, consciousness, morality, and criminal responsibility. We propose that further progress in brain imaging research may foster the emergence of a new discipline of forensic MRI.

Earlier this year Kamila Sip and colleagues challenged proponents of neuroimaging for deception detection to take more account of the real world context in which deception occurs, which led to a robust defence from John-Dylan Haynes and an equally robust rebuttal from Sip et al. It all happened in the pages of Trends in Cognitive Sciences:

With the increasing interest in the neuroimaging of deception and its commercial application, there is a need to pay more attention to methodology. The weakness of studying deception in an experimental setting has been discussed intensively for over half a century. However, even though much effort has been put into their development, paradigms are still inadequate. The problems that bedevilled the old technology have not been eliminated by the new. Advances will only be possible if experiments are designed that take account of the intentions of the subject and the context in which these occur.

In their recent article, Sip and colleagues raise several criticisms that question whether neuroimaging is suitable for lie detection. Here, two of their points are critically discussed. First, contrary to the view of Sip et al., the fact that brain regions involved in deception are also involved in other cognitive processes is not a problem for classification-based detection of deception. Second, I disagree with their proposition that the development of lie-detection requires enriched experimental deception scenarios. Instead, I propose a data-driven perspective whereby powerful statistical techniques are applied to data obtained in real-world scenarios.

…Valid experimental paradigms for eliciting deception are still required, and such paradigms will be particularly difficult to apply in real-life settings… We agree with Haynes, however, that there are important ethical issues at stake for researchers in this field. In our opinion, one of the most important of these is careful consideration of how results derived from highly controlled laboratory settings compare with those obtained from real-life scenarios, and if and when imaging technology should be transferred from the laboratory to the judicial system.

fMRI and deception: new research findings

Of course discussion is worth nothing if you don’t have research results to discuss. Shawn Christ and colleagues delved deeper into to the cognitive processes associated with deception:

Previous neuroimaging studies have implicated the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and nearby brain regions in deception. This is consistent with the hypothesis that lying involves the executive control system….Our findings support the notion that executive control processes, particularly working memory, and their associated neural substrates play an integral role in deception. This work provides a foundation for future research on the neurocognitive basis of deception.

Meanwhile, two groups of researchers reported that fMRI techniques can differentiate between mistakes and false memories vs deliberate deception, with Tatia Lee and colleagues showing that in the case of feigning memory impairment, deception “is not only more cognitively demanding than making unintentional errors but also utilizes different cognitive processes”:

fMRI and deception in the blogosphere

Commentary and discussion of fMRI was not limited to the pages of scholarly journals, however. A terrific post by Vaughan over at Mind Hacks on the limitations of fMRI studies zipped around the blogosphere (and rightly so) and is well worth a read if you are interested in becoming a more critical consumer of fMRI deception detection studies (see also Neurophilosophy’s post MRI: What is it good for? ).

There’s a detailed write-up by Hank Greely of the University of Akron Law School’s conference on Law and Neuroscience held in September, which covers the science, the practicalities and the ethics of using neuroscience in forensic contexts (see also his summary of a presentation at an earlier conference on ‘neurolaw’). Judges too, are “waking up to the potential misuse of brain-scanning technologies” with a recent judges’ summit in the US to “discuss protecting courts from junk neuroscience”, reports New Scientist .

Nevertheless, purveyors of MRI lie-detection technology continue to push their wares. For instance, the Antipolygraph Blog picked up a radio discussion on commercial fMRI-based lie detection in June (the audio download is still available as an mp3 download).

ERP and deception: the controversial BEOS test

Earlier this year I and many others blogged about the disturbing use of brain scanning in a recent murder trial in India. The technique is known as the Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature test and is based on measuring Event-Related Potentials (electrical activity across the brain). Neurologica blog and Neuroethics and Law have a write-ups and links for those who wish to know more.

Neuroethics and Law blog links to a pdf of the judge’s opinion in the case, where pages 58-64 include a summary of the judge’s understanding of the BEOS procedure and what it ‘revealed’ in this case. Most disturbing is the apparent certainty of the judge that the tests were appropriate, scientifically robust and applied correctly by “Sunny Joseph who is working as Assistant Chemical Analyser in Forensic Science Laboratory, Mumbai” (p.55-56):

…competency of this witness to conduct the Test is not seriously challenged. His evidence also reveals that he was working as Clinical Psychologist in National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences at Bangalore and he has experience in the field of Neuro psychology since last 6 years and in forensic technique since last 1½ years. He has himself conducted approximately 15 Polygraph Tests and has been associated with almost 100 Polygraph Tests. He has conducted 16 BEOS Tests and has been associated in conducting of about 12 Neuro Psychology Tests. Therefore his expertise in my opinion, can in no way be challenged and nothing is brought on record in his cross examination to show that the Tests conducted were not proper and requisite procedure was not followed (p.62).

On a happier note, my hot tip for the New Year is to keep your eye on Social Neuroscience – there are several articles on neural correlates of deception in press there which they are saving up for a special issue in 2009.

More soon – part 3 covers the 2008 flurry of interest in deception and magic!

Research round-up 1: Catching liars

I know I’ve really neglected this blog over the past few months (pressure of work and a doctorate to finish). Over the next few posts I’ll share with you all the articles and stories I hoped I’d have time to comment on this year but just didn’t. I’d like to promise to be better in 2009, but for the first half at least I’m going to struggle. Hang in there, eventually I’ll get back to being a better blogger!

The second post in this series deals with research and commentary on new technologies, like fMRI, for lie detection. But first I round up some recent research on deception detection methods which don’t require a $1 million giant magnet or wiring your subject up to a polygraph or brain scanner.

Who can catch a liar?

Let’s start with a bit of back and forth that began with an article by Charles Bond and Bella Depaulo which appeared in Psychological Bulletin this year. Bond and Depaulo’s analysis suggested that individual differences in lie detection ability are vanishingly small. Accuracy in lie detection, argue Bond and Depaulo, is more to do with how good the liar is at lying than individuals are at detecting deceit.

The authors report a meta-analysis of individual differences in detecting deception… Although researchers have suggested that people differ in the ability to detect lies, psychometric analyses of 247 samples reveal that these ability differences are minute. In terms of the percentage of lies detected, measurement-corrected standard deviations in judge ability are less than 1%. In accuracy, judges range no more widely than would be expected by chance, and the best judges are no more accurate than a stochastic mechanism would produce. When judging deception, people differ less in ability than in the inclination to regard others’ statements as truthful. People also differ from one another as lie- and truth-tellers. They vary in the detectability of their lies. Moreover, some people are more credible than others whether lying or truth-telling. Results reveal that the outcome of a deception judgment depends more on the liar’s credibility than any other individual difference.

This is a direct challenge to, in particular, the work of psychologists Maureen O’Sullivan and Paul Ekman, who have been investigating people they claim are extraordinarily accurate at deception detection – people they have dubbed ‘wizards’ of deception detection. So here comes O’Sullivan, right back at Bond and Depaulo:

…[Bond and Depaulo’s] conclusions are based principally on studies with college students as lie detectors and lie scenarios of dubious ecological validity. When motivated professional groups have been shown either high stakes lie scenarios or scenarios involving appropriate liars and truth-tellers, average accuracies significantly above chance have been found for 7 different professional groups reported by 12 researchers in 3 countries. The replicated and predicted performance of extremely accurate individual lie detectors (“truth wizards”) also undermines the claim of no individual differences in lie detection accuracy…

Therese Pigott and Meng-Jia Wu also weigh in highlighting some methodological problems with Bond and Depaulo’s novel meta-analytic technique:

…[Bond and Depaulo] have presented a creative solution to the problem of estimating the standard deviation of deception judgments in the literature. Their article raises methodological questions about how to synthesize a measure of variation across studies. Although the standard deviation presents a number of problems as an effect size measure, more methodological research is needed to address directly the question raised by Bond and DePaulo (p.500).

Of course Bond and Depaulo get a right to reply. They repeat their analyses using the suggestions made by Piggott and Wu, and come to the same conclusion. They also take on O’Sullivan’s criticism and analyse data on experience to see what differences exist between college students and judges with ‘professional experience’. They conclude: “In moderator analyses, we looked separately at inexperienced and experienced judges. The individual differences in lie-detection accuracy were actually smaller among experienced judges than inexperienced ones” (p. 503).

Some empirical research that appears to support Bond and Depaulo’s claim was published online earlier this year, in advance of print in Law and Human Behaviour:

We examined whether individuals’ ability to detect deception remained stable over time. In two sessions, held one week apart, university students viewed video clips of individuals and attempted to differentiate between the lie-tellers and truth-tellers. Overall, participants had difficulty detecting all types of deception. When viewing children answering yes-no questions about a transgression (Experiments 1 and 5), participants’ performance was highly reliable. However, rating adults who provided truthful or fabricated accounts did not produce a significant alternate forms correlation (Experiment 2). This lack of reliability was not due to the types of deceivers (i.e., children versus adults) or interviews (i.e., closed-ended questions versus extended accounts) (Experiment 3). Finally, the type of deceptive scenario (naturalistic vs. experimentally-manipulated) could not account for differences in reliability (Experiment 4). Theoretical and legal implications are discussed.

But just in case you think it’s all over for the ‘wizards’, here’s a study from Gary Bond which suggests it can’t be dismissed quite yet. Out of more than 200 participants (law enforcement officers and college students) G. Bond discovered eleven (all LEOs) who could detect deception at greater than 80% chance, and from these, two potential ‘wizards’ who could maintain this accuracy rate over time. All of which indicates that there may indeed be ‘wizards’, but that they are (as O’Sullican has always recognised) very rare.

…Two experiments sought to (a) identify expert(s) in detection and assess them twice with four tests, and (b) study their detection behavior using eye tracking. Paroled felons produced videotaped statements that were presented to students and law enforcement personnel. Two experts were identified, both female Native American BIA correctional officers. Experts were over 80% accurate in the first assessment, and scored at 90% accuracy in the second assessment. In Signal Detection analyses, experts showed high discrimination, and did not evidence biased responding. They exploited nonverbal cues to make fast, accurate decisions. These highly-accurate individuals can be characterized as experts in deception detection.

How do you catch a liar?

What about the rest of us who aren’t ‘wizards’? Another discussion piece, which appeared earlier this year in a special issue of Criminal Justice and Behaviour focusing on scientific and psuedoscientific practices in law enforcement, was by Aldert Vrij who issued a challenge to law enforcement professionals to focus on verbal rather than non-verbal cues to lie detection:

…deception research has revealed that many verbal cues are more diagnostic cues to deceit than nonverbal cues. Paying attention to nonverbal cues results in being less accurate in truth/lie discrimination, particularly when only visual nonverbal cues are taken into account. Also, paying attention to visual nonverbal cues leads to a stronger lie bias (i.e., indicating that someone is lying). The author recommends a change in police practice and argues that for lie detection purposes it may be better to listen carefully to what suspects say.

Signs of lying

Continuing with their programme of research on the ‘cognitive load’ hypothesis Vrij, Sharon Leal and their colleagues published some psychophysiological evidence that lying does indeed increase mental effort, and that this increased effort can be detected by studying blink rates and skin conductance:

Previous research has shown that suspects in real-life interviews do not display stereotypical signs of nervous behaviours, even though they may be experiencing high detection anxiety. We hypothesised that these suspects may have experienced cognitive load when lying and that this cognitive load reduced their tonic arousal, which suppressed signs of nervousness. We conducted two experiments to test this hypothesis. Tonic electrodermal arousal and blink rate were examined during task-induced (Experiment 1) and deception-induced cognitive load (Experiment 2). Both increased cognitive difficulty and deception resulted in decreased tonic arousal and blinking. This demonstrated for the first time that when lying results in heightened levels of cognitive load, signs of nervousness are decreased. We discuss implications for detecting deception and more wide-ranging phenomena related to emotional behaviour.

And finally in this round-up, an article published in Psychology of Aging this year which tested older adults’ ability to detect deceit and whether any impairments were related to a lesser ability to recognise facial emotion expressed by the lie-teller.

Facial expressions of emotion are key cues to deceit (M. G. Frank & P. Ekman, 1997). Given that the literature on aging has shown an age-related decline in decoding emotions, we investigated (a) whether there are age differences in deceit detection and (b) if so, whether they are related to impairments in emotion recognition. Young and older adults (N = 364) were presented with 20 interviews (crime and opinion topics) and asked to decide whether each interview subject was lying or telling the truth. There were 3 presentation conditions: visual, audio, or audiovisual. In older adults, reduced emotion recognition was related to poor deceit detection in the visual condition for crime interviews only.

Next round-up will cover recent research on new technologies for lie detection!