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Truths about deception

Frank Abagnale Jr, the confidence trickster who inspired the film “Catch Me If You Can”, later became a security consultant for the FBI. There’s intuitive logic to the agency’s recruitment strategy – if you want to catch con artists, who better to spot them than a master con artist? But does this logic apply at a more basic level? Do skilled liars really make skilled lie detectors? So asks academic research – details here.  

 

 

Gestures made during interviews can influence or even misinform eyewitnesses. Witnesses are unlikely to recall the influential gestures being shown to them, new research from the University of Hertfordshire suggests. These findings were presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference.

 

Dr Daniel Gurney, from the University of Hertfordshire, interviewed 90 people about the contents of a video they had watched. During the interviews, the researcher deliberately performed misleading hand gestures to suggest inaccurate information about the detail in the video. These hand gestures included chin stroking to suggest someone had a beard. Although the man in the video did not have a beard, Dr Gurney found that the interviewees were three times more likely to recall seeing a beard when one was gestured to them, than those interviewees who were not gestured to. Other hand gestures used in the research included touching a ring finger (to suggest a ring), grasping a wrist (to suggest a watch) and pretending to pull on gloves. All of these gestures implied details that did not actually appear in the video and the results were similar to those with the misinformation about the beard.

Dr Gurney said: “A lot of research has showed that eyewitnesses can be influenced by misleading questions, but this research shows that gestures can also mislead, and sometimes without eyewitnesses even realising. For those professionals in the police, legal and other sensitive areas of work where questioning and recall of detail is important, we need to make sure the significance of hand gestures is fully taken on board.”

 

People who rate themselves as having high emotional intelligence (EI) tend to overestimate their ability to detect deception in others. This is the finding of a paper published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology.

 

Professor Stephen Porter, director of the Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law at University of British Columbia, Canada, with colleagues Dr Leanne ten Brinke and Alysha Baker used a standard questionnaire to measure the EI of 116 participants.

 

These participants were then asked to view 20 videos from around the world of people pleading for the safe return of a missing family member. In half the videos the person making the plea was responsible for the missing person’s disappearance or murder.

 

The participants were asked to judge whether the pleas were honest or deceptive, say how much confidence they had in their judgements, report the cues they had used to make those judgements and rate their emotional response to each plea.

 

Professor Porter found that higher EI was associated with overconfidence in assessing the sincerity of the pleas and sympathetic feelings towards people in the videos who turned out to be responsible for the disappearance.

 

Although EI, in general, was not associated with being better or worse at discriminating between truths and lies, people with a higher ability to perceive and express emotion (a component of EI) were not so good at spotting when people were telling lies. 

 

Professor Porter says:  “Taken together, these findings suggest that features of emotional intelligence, and the decision-making processes they lead to, may have the paradoxical effect of impairing people’s ability to detect deceit. 

 

“This finding is important because EI is a well-accepted concept and is used in a variety of domains, including the workplace.”

 

An underlying deception-general ability varies across individuals. So suggest researchers at University College London. 

 

Both the ability to deceive others, and the ability to detect deception, has long been proposed to confer an evolutionary advantage. Deception detection has been studied extensively, and the finding that typical individuals fare little better than chance in detecting deception is one of the more robust in the behavioural sciences. Surprisingly, little research has examined individual differences in lie production ability. As a consequence, as far as we are aware, no previous study has investigated whether there exists an association between the ability to lie successfully and the ability to detect lies. Furthermore, only a minority of studies have examined deception as it naturally occurs; in a social, interactive setting. The present study, therefore, explored the relationship between these two facets of deceptive behaviour by employing a novel competitive interactive deception task (DeceIT). For the first time, signal detection theory (SDT) was used to measure performance in both the detection and production of deception. A significant relationship was found between the deception-related abilities; those who could accurately detect a lie were able to produce statements that others found difficult to classify as deceptive or truthful. Furthermore, neither ability was related to measures of intelligence or emotional ability.  For the seven-page paper visit http://tinyurl.com/bn25kts.


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