Increasing Cognitive Load to Facilitate Lie Detection: The Benefit of Recalling an Event in Reverse Order

Continuing with their research on the ‘cognitive load hypothesis’, Aldert Vrij and colleagues from Portsmouth University report on a technique for facilitating lie detection – telling the story in reverse order. This article appears in the latest issue of Law and Human Behavior, although the study featured extensively in the press a few months ago (see here ).

Here’s the abstract:

In two experiments, we tested the hypotheses that (a) the difference between liars and truth tellers will be greater when interviewees report their stories in reverse order than in chronological order, and (b) instructing interviewees to recall their stories in reverse order will facilitate detecting deception. In Experiment 1, 80 mock suspects told the truth or lied about a staged event and did or did not report their stories in reverse order. The reverse order interviews contained many more cues to deceit than the control interviews. In Experiment 2, 55 police officers watched a selection of the videotaped interviews of Experiment 1 and made veracity judgements. Requesting suspects to convey their stories in reverse order improved police observers’ ability to detect deception and did not result in a response bias.

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