Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Who Told You That? Uncovering the Source of Believed Cues to Deception

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Who Told You That? Uncovering the Source of Believed Cues to Deception

Article excerpt


Many beliefs about deceptive communication - like liars avoid eye contact - are popular but inaccurate. To better understand the transmission of both accurate and false cues to deception, we examined the perceived source of deception beliefs. Two exploratory studies revealed six categories of belief sources such as observed behavior, mass media, and social networks, derived from 19 categories of deception beliefs. Reported beliefs loaded onto three primary factors suggesting a simpler schema for detecting deception. Both studies revealed that most people recalled learning about cues to deception from observing others' behavior, however, inaccurate beliefs were more likely to be perpetuated by credible sources.

Keywords: deception, beliefs, eye contact, source, schema

1. Transmitting Believed Cues to Deception

1.1 Understanding the Problem

Across cultures most people believe that liars "avoid eye contact" and "appear nervous" (Global Deception Research Team [GDRT], 2006) even though there is no scientific evidence supporting these beliefs. Relying on inaccurate beliefs may lead to poor deception detection ability in interpersonal relationships, by juries, business persons and security professionals (Bond & DePaulo, 2006). While there is global agreement on believed cues to deception, research has yet to examine why these beliefs exist or are perpetuated despite their inaccuracy. The first step in the process is to identify the source of beliefs to understand who is disseminating such inaccurate information.

Source credibility could be one factor facilitating the diffusion of inaccurate beliefs. Individuals may not question credible sources like authority figures, more experienced coworkers, or published research. For example, police officers learn inaccurate beliefs through their formal training, which may damage their deception detection ability (Kassin & Fong, 1999). American children are told by their parents to "look them in the eye" while telling the truth (Einav & Hood, 2008), shaping inaccurate beliefs about lying behavior from a young age. Information about deception is also broadcasted in the popular media (e.g., Lie to Me) and portrayals often leave consumers believing erroneous cues.

The two studies presented herein provide the first systematic investigation into the source of deception beliefs. The first study uses latent content analysis to examine open-ended responses regarding beliefs about deceptive behavior and identifies categories for both beliefs and the origins of those beliefs. The second study examines the reliability, utility and inter-correlations of these categories. First we present a discussion of the available research on the origins of deception beliefs, which supports these two studies.

1.2 Differences in Believed and Actual Cues to Deception

Believed cues to deception are the verbal and nonverbal behaviors people stereotypically associate with lying (Feeley & Young, 2000). The impacts of deception beliefs are relevant as we all make daily judgments as to whether our friends, coworkers, or acquaintances are telling the truth. Many beliefs about deception reflect the stereotypical view that a liar is nervous, fidgety, and ashamed; although these beliefs are inaccurate (Reinhard, Scharmach, & Müller, 2013) they may be used as a guide to make judgments.

There is considerable debate regarding the relationships between behavioral cues and deception, given that cues seem to vary as a product of the type of lie, experimental design, and relationship between liar and target (Sporer & Schwandt, 2007). Although no specific behavior is a direct product of deception, researchers generally agree that certain behaviors associated with increased cognition, emotional arousal, and story preparation manifest more often in deceptive as compared to truthful communication. Meta-analyses reveal that liars generally provide less detailed, less plausible and often shorter stories, are less involved and immediate, show greater uncertainty, and are more nervous than truth tellers (DePaulo et al. …

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