Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 159–166 | Cite as

Outsmarting the Liars: The Benefit of Asking Unanticipated Questions

  • Aldert Vrij
  • Sharon Leal
  • Pär Anders Granhag
  • Samantha Mann
  • Ronald P. Fisher
  • Jackie Hillman
  • Kathryn Sperry
Original Article


We hypothesised that the responses of pairs of liars would correspond less with each other than would responses of pairs of truth tellers, but only when the responses are given to unanticipated questions. Liars and truth tellers were interviewed individually about having had lunch together in a restaurant. The interviewer asked typical opening questions which we expected the liars to anticipate, followed by questions about spatial and/or temporal information which we expected suspects not to anticipate, and also a request to draw the layout of the restaurant. The results supported the hypothesis, and based on correspondence in responses to the unanticipated questions, up to 80% of liars and truth tellers could be correctly classified, particularly when assessing drawings.


Deception Unanticipated questions Consistency 


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Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aldert Vrij
    • 1
  • Sharon Leal
    • 1
  • Pär Anders Granhag
    • 2
  • Samantha Mann
    • 1
  • Ronald P. Fisher
    • 3
  • Jackie Hillman
    • 1
  • Kathryn Sperry
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK
  2. 2.University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Florida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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