Deception: How do we feel about it, and how do we detect it?
Roberts, Hester Philippa Howden
The subjective experience of lying has been broadly theorized in deception research, with preference to the idea that humans feel either fear, guilt, or excitement (Ekman, 1985). Moreover, some authors suggest that constructing a lie is cognitively demanding, which may create feelings of discomfort (Vrij et al., 2008). Both theories propose that increased discomfort leads to increased observable deceitful cues, yet there is little in the way of empirical evidence to support these claims. Experiment 1 is the first study to experimentally validate how humans feel when they lie. Participants were interviewed on four controversial opinions they felt strongly about, voicing stances that are consistent with, or opposite to their true opinions. These interviews were video-recorded for Experiment 2. After each interview, participants recorded the extent to which they felt happy, angry, sad, disgusted, fearful, ashamed, and stressed. Results indicated that participants felt greater negative emotions and lower levels of happiness when lying, compared to telling the truth. The results are consistent with Ekman’s and Vrij’s theories, and the negatively-oriented moral stance towards deceiving others. Experiment 2 took inspiration from the considerable inability to accurately detect lies from truths. On average, the ability to detect lies sits at 54% (DePaulo et al., 2006). Here, the main question asks why humans are barely achieving an accuracy rate better than chance. For Experiment 2, a subset of videos from Experiment 1 and a Deception Detection Questionnaire were administered to understand how participants made lie-truth judgments. Results indicated that average accuracy rates reached 54.79%, with lie-truth judgments primarily based on whether the participant agreed with a statement regardless of whether it was a truth or a lie – referred to as a personal-belief bias – and speakers’ perceived demeanour. That is, while participants believed that observed deceitful cues determined their judgments, ultimately cognitive biases and demeanour influenced their decisions.
Advisor: Ruffman, Ted
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: deception; experience; personal-belief bias; demeanour; heuristics
Research Type: Thesis