, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 33-49
Date: 21 Feb 2009

Cognitive Lie Detection: Response Time and Consistency of Answers as Cues to Deception

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to test a new cognitive lie detection method, time restricted integrity confirmation (Tri-Con), which uses response time and inconsistencies across answers as cues to deception.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were obtained from two samples of students enrolled in psychology classes (n = 96 for Experiment 1, n = 99 for Experiment 2). The experimental task required students to lie or tell the truth to questions probing biodata under time restriction. The foci of questions (such as Academics or Employment History) were chosen because of their relevance to participants’ lives.

Findings

Tri-Con was able to distinguish between truth tellers and liars after controlling for individual differences. In one experiment, liar-truth teller classification accuracies reached 89%. Mean response times and answer consistency can be used to distinguish those who lie from those who tell the truth.

Implications

Research on cognitive-based lie detectors, such as Tri-Con, hold the potential for developing reliable and valid methods of screening out employees likely to engage in misconduct and providing deceptive answers to screening questions. A cognitive lie detector would constitute a paradigm shift away from the polygraph, and could be used in tandem with integrity tests.

Originality/value

This study was a preliminary test of a cognitive lie detection method based on a model of cognitive events (the Activation-Decision-Construction model) when people answer questions deceptively. It constitutes a step in translating laboratory-based cognitive research into applied technologies for the real world detection of lying, including lying that occurs during pre-employment screening.

Received and reviewed by former editor, George Neuman.