Psychological Research

, Volume 81, Issue 4, pp 878–899 | Cite as

The dishonest mind set in sequence

  • Anna FoersterEmail author
  • Robert Wirth
  • Wilfried Kunde
  • Roland Pfister
Original Article


Dishonest responding is an important part of the behavioral repertoire and perfectly integrated in communication and daily actions. Thus, previous research aimed at uncovering the cognitive mechanisms underlying dishonest responding by studying its immediate behavioral effects. A comprehensive account of the aftereffects of this type of behavior has not been presented to date, however. Based on the methods and theories from research on task switching, we, therefore, explored the notion of honest and dishonest responding as two distinct intentional sets. In four experiments, participants responded either honestly or dishonestly to simple yes/no questions. Crucially, robust switch costs were found between honest and dishonest responding when questions succeeded promptly (Exp. 1) but also when an unrelated task intervened between questions (Exp. 2). Surprisingly, responding dishonestly to a question also affected responses in the subsequent intervening task in terms of a more liberal response criterion. Time to prepare for the upcoming intentional set further induced asymmetrical switch costs (Exp. 3). Finally, a novel control condition (Exp. 4) allowed us to pinpoint most of the observed effects to negation processing as an inherent mechanism of dishonesty. The experiments shed new light on the cognitive mechanisms underlying dishonesty by providing strong support for the concept of distinct mental sets for honest and dishonest responding. The experiments further reveal that these mental sets are notably stable and are not disturbed by intervening task performance. The observed aftereffects of dishonest responding might also provide a potent extension to applied protocols for lie detection.


Switch Cost Repetition Trial Simon Task Switch Trial Dishonest Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Informed consent: Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Allport, D. A., Styles, E. A., & Hsieh, S. (1994). Shifting intentional set: exploring the dynamic control of tasks. In C. Umiltà & M. Moscovitch (Eds.), Conscious and nonconscious information processing: Attention and performance (pp. 421–452). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Arrington, C. M., & Logan, G. D. (2004). The cost of a voluntary task switch. Psychological Science, 15(9), 610–615. doi: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00728.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Arrington, C. M., & Logan, G. D. (2005). Voluntary task switching: Chasing the elusive homunculus. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31(4), 683–702. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.31.4.683.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Batson, C. D., Early, S., & Salvarani, G. (1997). Perspective taking: Imagining how another feels versus imaging how you would feel. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(7), 751–758. doi: 10.1177/0146167297237008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ben-Shakhar, G., & Elaad, E. (2003). The validity of psychophysiological detection of information with the guilty knowledge test: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(1), 131–151. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.88.1.131.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bhatt, S., Mbwana, J., Adeyemo, A., Sawyer, A., Hailu, A., & Vanmeter, J. (2009). Lying about facial recognition: An fMRI study. Brain and Cognition, 69(2), 382–390. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2008.08.033.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Clark, H. H., & Chase, W. G. (1972). On the process of comparing sentences against pictures. Cognitive Psychology, 3(3), 472–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, R. A. (2011a). Arousal. In J. Kreutzer, J. DeLuca, & B. Caplan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology (pp. 247–249). New York, NY: Springer New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen, R. A. (2011b). Yerkes-Dodson Law. In J. Kreutzer, J. DeLuca, & B. Caplan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology (pp. 2737–2738). New York, NY: Springer New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Debey, E., De Houwer, J., & Verschuere, B. (2014a). Lying relies on the truth. Cognition, 132(3), 324–334. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2014.04.009.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Debey, E., Liefooghe, B., de Houwer, J., & Verschuere, B. (2014b). Lie, truth, lie: The role of task switching in a deception context. Psychological Research,. doi: 10.1007/s00426-014-0582-4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Debey, E., Verschuere, B., & Crombez, G. (2012). Lying and executive control: An experimental investigation using ego depletion and goal neglect. Acta Psychologica, 140(2), 133–141. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.03.004.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. DePaulo, B. M., Kashy, D. A., Kirkendol, S. E., Wyer, M. M., & Epstein, J. A. (1996). Lying in everyday life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(5), 979–995. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.70.5.979.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Duran, N. D., Dale, R., & McNamara, D. S. (2010). The action dynamics of overcoming the truth. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17(4), 486–491. doi: 10.3758/PBR.17.4.486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ekman, P., & O’Sullivan, M. (1991). Who can catch a liar? American Psychologist, 46(9), 913–920. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.46.9.913.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Foerster, A., Pfister, R., Schmidts, C., Dignath, D., & Kunde, W. (2013). Honesty saves time (and justifications). Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 473. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00473.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Franz, V. H., & von Luxburg, U. (2014). Unconscious lie detection as an example of a widespread fallacy in the Neurosciences. Retrieved January 1, 2015 from
  18. Gamer, M., Verschuere, B., Crombez, G., & Vossel, G. (2008). Combining physiological measures in the detection of concealed information. Physiology & Behavior, 95(3), 333–340. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.06.011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gilbert, D. T. (1991). How mental systems believe. American Psychologist, 46(2), 107–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Johnson, R., Barnhardt, J., & Zhu, J. (2003). The deceptive response: Effects of response conflict and strategic monitoring on the late positive component and episodic memory-related brain activity. Biological Psychology, 64(3), 217–253. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2003.07.006.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnson, R., Barnhardt, J., & Zhu, J. (2004). The contribution of executive processes to deceptive responding. Neuropsychologia, 42(7), 878–901. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2003.12.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnson, R., Barnhardt, J., & Zhu, J. (2005). Differential effects of practice on the executive processes used for truthful and deceptive responses: An event-related brain potential study. Cognitive Brain Research, 24(3), 386–404. doi: 10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.02.011.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Kiesel, A., Steinhauser, M., Wendt, M., Falkenstein, M., Jost, K., Philipp, A. M., & Koch, I. (2010). Control and interference in task switching—a review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(5), 849–874. doi: 10.1037/a0019842.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Koch, I. (2003). The role of external cues for endogenous advance reconfiguration in task switching. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10(2), 488–492. doi: 10.3758/BF03196511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Levine, T. R. (2014). Truth-Default Theory (TDT): A theory of human deception and deception detection. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 33(4), 378–392. doi: 10.1177/0261927X14535916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meiran, N. (1996). Reconfiguration of processing mode prior to task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22(6), 1423–1442. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.22.6.1423.Google Scholar
  27. Meiran, N., Chorev, Z., & Sapir, A. (2000). Component processes in task switching. Cognitive Psychology, 41(3), 211–253. doi: 10.1006/cogp.2000.0736.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Meuter, R., & Allport, A. (1999). Bilingual language switching in naming: Asymmetrical costs of language selection. Journal of Memory and Language, 40(1), 25–40. doi: 10.1006/jmla.1998.2602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Monsell, S. (2003). Task switching. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(3), 134–140. doi: 10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00028-7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Monsell, S., Yeung, N., & Azuma, R. (2000). Reconfiguration of task-set: Is it easier to switch to the weaker task? Psychological Research, 63(3–4), 250–264. doi: 10.1007/s004269900005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Pfister, R. (2013). Breaking the rules: Cognitive conflict during deliberate rule violations. Berlin: Logos.Google Scholar
  32. Pfister, R., Foerster, A., & Kunde, W. (2014). Pants on fire: The electrophysiological signature of telling a lie. Social Neuroscience, 9(6), 562–572. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2014.934392.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Pfister, R., & Janczyk, M. (2013). Confidence intervals for two sample means: Calculation, interpretation, and a few simple rules. Advances in cognitive psychology/University of Finance and Management in Warsaw, 9(2), 74–80. doi: 10.2478/v10053-008-0133-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pfister, R., Wirth, R., Schwarz, K. A., Steinhauser, M., & Kunde, W. (2016). Burdens of non-conformity: Motor execution reveals cognitive conflict during deliberate rule violations. Cognition, 147, 93–99.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Rogers, R. D., & Monsell, S. (1995). Costs of a predictible switch between simple cognitive tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 124(2), 207–231. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.124.2.207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Serota, K. (2014). Lying, prevalence of. In T. R. Levine (Ed.), Encyclopedia of deception (Vol. 2, pp. 619–621). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi:  10.4135/9781483306902.n233.
  37. Serota, K. B., Levine, T. R., & Boster, F. J. (2010). The prevalence of lying in America: Three studies of self-reported lies. Human Communication Research, 36(1), 2–25. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2009.01366.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shalvi, S., Eldar, O., & Bereby-Meyer, Y. (2012). Honesty requires time (and lack of justifications). Psychological Science, 23(10), 1264–1270. doi: 10.1177/0956797612443835.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Spence, S. A., Farrow, T. F. D., Herford, A. E., Wilkinson, I. D., Zheng, Y., & Woodruff, P. W. R. (2001). Behavioural and functional anatomical correlates of deception in humans. NeuroReport, 12(13), 2849–2853. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200109170-00019.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Strack, F., & Deutsch, R. (2004). Reflective and impulsive determinants of social behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8(3), 220–247.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Suchotzki, K., Crombez, G., Smulders, Fren T. Y., Meijer, E., & Verschuere, B. (2015). The cognitive mechanisms underlying deception: An event-related potential study. International Journal of Psychophysiology,. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.01.010.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Sudevan, P., & Taylor, D. A. (1987). The cuing and priming of cognitive operations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 13(1), 89–103. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.13.1.89.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Van Bockstaele, B., Verschuere, B., Moens, T., Suchotzki, K., Debey, E., & Spruyt, A. (2012). Learning to lie: Effects of practice on the cognitive cost of lying. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 526. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00526.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Bockstaele, B., Wilhelm, C., Meijer, E., Debey, E., & Verschuere, B. (2015). When deception becomes easy: The effects of task switching and goal neglect on the truth proportion effect. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1666. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01666.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  45. Vandenbosch, K., Verschuere, B., Crombez, G., & De Clercq, A. (2009). The validity of finger pulse line length for the detection of concealed information. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 71(2), 118–123. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.07.015.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Vandierendonck, A., Liefooghe, B., & Verbruggen, F. (2010). Task switching: Interplay of reconfiguration and interference control. Psychological Bulletin, 136(4), 601–626. doi: 10.1037/a0019791.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. van’t Veer, A. E., Gallucci, M., Stel, M., & van Beest, I. (2015). Unconscious deception detection measured by finger skin temperature and indirect veracity judgments—results of a registered report. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1–11.Google Scholar
  48. van’t Veer, A., Stel, M., & van Beest, I. (2013). Limited capacity to lie: cognitive load interferes with being dishonest. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2351377.
  49. Verguts, T., Notebaert, W., Kunde, W., & Wühr, P. (2011). Post-conflict slowing: Cognitive adaptation after conflict processing. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18(1), 76–82. doi: 10.3758/s13423-010-0016-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Verschuere, B., & Shalvi, S. (2014). The truth comes naturally! Does it? Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 33(4), 417–423. doi: 10.1177/0261927X14535394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Verschuere, B., Spruyt, A., Meijer, E. H., & Otgaar, H. (2011). The ease of lying. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(3), 908–911. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.10.023.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Vrij, A., Fisher, R., Mann, S., & Leal, S. (2008a). A cognitive load approach to lie detection. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 5(1–2), 39–43. doi: 10.1002/jip.82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vrij, A., Mann, S. A., Fisher, R. P., Leal, S., Milne, R., & Bull, R. (2008b). Increasing cognitive load to facilitate lie detection: The benefit of recalling an event in reverse order. Law and Human Behavior, 32(3), 253–265.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Walczyk, J. J., Griffith, D. A., Yates, R., Visconte, S. R., Simoneaux, B., & Harris, L. L. (2012). Lie detection by inducing cognitive load: Eye movements and other cues to the false answers of “witnesses” to crimes. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 39(7), 887–909. doi: 10.1177/0093854812437014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Walczyk, J. J., Harris, L. L., Duck, T. K., & Mulay, D. (2014). A social-cognitive framework for understanding serious lies: Activation-decision-construction-action theory. New Ideas in Psychology, 34, 22–36. doi: 10.1016/j.newideapsych.2014.03.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Walczyk, J. J., Mahoney, K. T., Doverspike, D., & Griffith-Ross, D. A. (2009). Cognitive lie detection: Response time and consistency of answers as cues to deception. Journal of Business and Psychology, 24(1), 33–49. doi: 10.1007/s10869-009-9090-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Walczyk, J. J., Roper, K. S., Seemann, E., & Humphrey, A. M. (2003). Cognitive mechanisms underlying lying to questions: Response time as a cue to deception. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17(7), 755–774. doi: 10.1002/acp.914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Walczyk, J. J., Schwartz, J. P., Clifton, R., Adams, B., Wei, M. L., & Zha, P. (2005). Lying person-to-person about life events: A cognitive framework for lie detection. Personnel Psychology, 58(1), 141–170. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2005.00484.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wirth, R., Pfister, R., Foerster, A., Huestegge, L., & Kunde, W. (2015). Pushing the rules: Effects and aftereffects of non-conformity. Psychological Research, 1–15. doi: 10.1007/s00426-015-0690-9
  60. Yerkes, R. M., & Dodson, J. D. (1908). The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18(5), 459–482. doi: 10.1002/cne.920180503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yeung, N., & Monsell, S. (2003). Switching between tasks of unequal familiarity: The role of stimulus-attribute and response-set selection. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29(2), 455–469. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.29.2.455.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Zuckerman, M., DePaulo, B. M., & Rosenthal, R. (1981). Verbal and nonverbal communication of deception. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 14, pp. 1–59). New York, NY: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60369-X

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Foerster
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Wirth
    • 1
  • Wilfried Kunde
    • 1
  • Roland Pfister
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology IIIUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

Personalised recommendations