Skip to main content

Lie, truth, lie: the role of task switching in a deception context

Abstract

A cornerstone of the task switching literature is the finding that task performance is typically slower and more error-prone when the task switches than when it repeats. So far, deception research has largely ignored that such cognitive switch costs should also emerge when switching between truth telling and lying, and may affect the cognitive cost of lying as reflected in higher prefrontal brain activity and slower and less accurate responding compared to truth telling. To get a grasp on the relative size of the switch costs associated with lying and truth telling, the current study had participants perform a reaction time-based deception task, in which they alternated between lying and telling the truth to yes/no questions that were related to activities performed in the lab (Experiment 1) or neutral autobiographical facts (Experiment 2). In both experiments, the error and reaction time switch costs were found to be equally large for switching from truth telling to lying and from lying to truth telling. This symmetry in switch costs can be explained from the hypothesis that lying requires a first step of truth telling, and demonstrates that task switching does not contribute to the cognitive cost of lying when the repetition/switch ratio is balanced. Theoretical and methodological implications are considered.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. As we used a different outlier technique in the study of Debey, Ridderinkhof, De Houwer, & Verschuere (2014b), the results slightly differ between the studies.

References

  • Abe, N. (2011). How the brain shapes deception: An integrated review of the literature. Neuroscientist, 17, 560–574. doi:10.1177/1073858410393359.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Allport, D. A., Styles, E. A., & Hsieh, S. (1994). Shifting attentional set: Exploring the dynamic control of tasks. In C. Umiltá & M. Moscovitch (Eds.), Attention and Performance XV: Conscious and nonconscious information processing (pp. 421–452). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Allport, A., & Wylie, G. (2000). Task-switching, stimulus–response bindings and negative priming. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.), Control of cognitive processes: Attention and performance XVIII (pp. 36–70). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ambach, W., Stark, R., & Vaitl, D. (2011). An interfering n-back task facilitates the detection of concealed information with EDA but impedes it with cardiopulmonary physiology. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 80, 217–226. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2011.03.010.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Arbuthnott, K. D. (2008). Asymmetric switch cost and backward inhibition: Carryover activation and inhibition in switching between tasks of unequal difficulty. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62(91–100), 1961. doi:10.1037/1196-.62.2.91.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ben-Shakhar, G. (2001). A critical review of the Control Questions Test (CQT). In M. Kleiner (Ed.), Handbook of polygraph testing (pp. 103–126). New York, NY: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryck, R. L., & Mayr, U. (2008). Task selection cost asymmetry without task switching. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 128–134. doi:10.3758/pbr.15.1.128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, J. I. D. (2005). Asymmetrical language switching costs in Chinese-English bilinguals’ number naming and simple arithmetic. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 8, 85–91. doi:10.1017/S136672890400207X.

  • Cherkasova, M. V., Manoach, D. S., Intriligator, J. M., & Barton, J. J. S. (2002). Antisaccades and task-switching: interactions in controlled processing. Experimental Brain Research, 144, 528–537. doi:10.1007/s00221-002-1075-z.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Christ, S. E., Van Essen, D. C., Watson, J. M., Brubaker, L. E., & McDermott, K. B. (2009). The contributions of prefrontal cortex and executive control to deception: Evidence from activation likelihood estimate meta-analyses. Cerebral Cortex, 19, 1557–1566. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn189.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.112.1.155.

  • Costa, A., & Santesteban, M. (2004). Lexical access in bilingual speech production: Evidence from language switching in highly proficient bilinguals and L2 learners. Journal of Memory and Language, 50, 491–511. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2004.02.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Debey, E., De Houwer, J., & Verschuere, B. (2014a). Lying relies on the truth. Cognition, 132, 324–334. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.04.009.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Debey, E., Ridderinkhof, K. R., De Houwer, J., & Verschuere, B. (2014b). Suppressing the truth as a mechanism of deception: Delta plots reveal the role of response inhibition in lying (submitted).

  • Debey, E., Verschuere, B., & Crombez, G. (2012). Lying and executive control: An experimental investigation using ego depletion and goal neglect. Acta Psychologica, 140, 133–141. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.03.004.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Duran, N. D., Dale, R., & McNamara, D. S. (2010). The action dynamics of overcoming the truth. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 486–491. doi:10.3758/PBR.17.4.486.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ellefson, M. R., Shapiro, L. R., & Chater, N. (2006). Asymmetrical switch costs in children. Cognitive Development, 21, 108–130. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2006.01.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Evans, A. D., & Lee, K. (2011). Verbal deception from late childhood to middle adolescence and its relation to executive functioning skills. Developmental Psychology, 47, 1108–1116. doi:10.1037/a0023425.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, S. J., & Shallice, T. (2002). Task-switching: A PDP model. Cognitive Psychology, 44, 297–337. doi:10.1006/cogp.2001.0770.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gombos, V. A. (2006). The cognition of deception: The role of executive processes in producing lies. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 132, 197–214. doi:10.3200/MONO.132.3.197-214.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hadar, A. A., Makris, S., & Yarrow, K. (2012). The truth-telling motor cortex: Response competition in M1 discloses deceptive behaviour. Biological Psychology, 89, 495–502. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.12.019.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hernandez, A. E., & Kohnert, K. J. (1999). Aging and language switching in bilinguals. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 6, 69–83. doi:10.1076/anec.6.2.69.783.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hübner, M., Kluwe, R. H., Luna-Rodriguez, A., & Peters, A. (2004). Response selection difficulty and asymmetrical costs of switching between tasks and stimuli: No evidence for an exogenous component of task-set reconfiguration. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 30, 1043–1063. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.30.6.1043.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jeffreys, H. (1961). Theory of probability. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kiesel, A., Steinhauser, M., Wendt, M., Falkenstein, M., Jost, K., Phillip, A., et al. (2010). Control and interference in task switching—a review. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 849–874. doi:10.1037/a0019842.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Koch, I., Gade, M., Schuch, S., & Philipp, A. M. (2010). The role of inhibition in task switching—a review. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 1–14. doi:10.3758/PBR.17.1.1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koch, I., Prinz, W., & Allport, A. (2005). Involuntary retrieval in alphabet-arithmetic tasks: Task-mixing and task-switching costs. Psychological Research, 69, 252–261. doi:10.1007/s00426-004-0180-y.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kroll, J. F., & Stewart, E. (1994). Category interference in translation and picture naming: Evidence for asymmetric connections between bilingual memory representations. Journal of Memory and Language, 33, 149–174. doi:10.1006/jmla.1994.1008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lemaire, P., & Lecacheur, M. (2010). Strategy switch costs in arithmetic problem solving. Memory & Cognition, 38, 322–332. doi:10.3758/MC.38.3.322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Logan, G. D., & Burkell, J. (1986). Dependence and independence in responding to double stimulation: a comparison of stop, change, and dual-task paradigms. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 12, 549–563. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.12.4.549.

  • Logan, G. D., & Gordon, R. D. (2001). Executive control of attention in dual-task situations. Psychological Review, 108, 393–434. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.108.2.393.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Manoach, D. S., Thakkar, K. N., Cain, M. S., Polli, F. E., Edelman, J. A., Fischl, B., et al. (2007). Neural activity is modulated by trial history: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of the effects of a previous antisaccade. Journal of Neuroscience, 27, 1791–1798. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3662-06.2007.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mayr, U., & Kliegl, R. (2000). Task-set switching and long-term memory retrieval. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 1124–1140. doi:10.1037//0278-7393.26.5.1124

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Meuter, R. F. I., & Allport, A. (1999). Bilingual language switching in naming: Asymmetrical costs of language selection. Journal of Memory and Language, 40, 25–40. doi:10.1006/jmla.1998.2602.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Emerson, M. J., Witzki, A. H., Howerter, A., & Wager, T. D. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “frontal lobe” tasks: a latent variable analysis. Cognitive Psychology, 41, 49–100. doi:10.1006/cogp.1999.0734.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Monsell, S. (2003). Task switching. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 134–140. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00028-7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Monsell, S., & Mizon, G. A. (2006). Can the task-cuing paradigm measure an endogenous task-set reconfiguration process? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 493–516. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.32.3.493.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Monsell, S., Yeung, N., & Azuma, R. (2000). Reconfiguration of task-set: Is it easier to switch to the weaker task? Psychological Research, 63, 250–264. doi:10.1007/s004269900005.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, C. J., LeSage, J. B., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2009). Types of deception revealed by individual differences in cognitive abilities. Society for Neuroscience, 4, 554–569. doi:10.1080/17470910802299987.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nachev, P., Wydell, H., O’Neill, K., Husain, M., & Kennard, C. (2007). The role of the pre-supplementary motor area in the control of action. NeuroImage, 36, 155–163. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.03.034.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Osman, M., Channon, S., & Fitzpatrick, S. (2009). Does the truth interfere with our ability to deceive? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 901–906. doi:10.3758/PBR.16.5.901.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Philipp, A. M., Gade, M., & Koch, I. (2007). Inhibitory processes in language switching: Evidence from switching language-defined response sets. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 395–416. doi:10.1080/09541440600758812.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reuter, B., Philipp, A. M., Koch, I., & Kathmann, N. (2006). Effects of switching between leftward and rightward pro- and antisaccades. Biological Psychology, 72, 88–95. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.08.005.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ridderinkhof, K. R. (2002). Activation and suppression in conflict tasks: Empirical clarification through distributional analyses. In W. Prinz, & B. Hommel (Eds.), Common Mechanisms in Perception and Action: Attention & Performance (Vol. XIX, pp. 494–519). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press

  • Rouder, J. N., Speckman, P. L., Sun, D., Morey, R. D., & Iverson, G. (2009). Bayesian t-tests for accepting and rejecting the null hypothesis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 225–237. doi:10.3758/PBR.16.2.225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schneider, D. W., & Anderson, J. R. (2010). Asymmetric switch costs as sequential difficulty effects. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1873–1894. doi:10.1080/17470211003624010.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spence, S. A., Farrow, T. F., Herford, A. E., Wilkinson, I. D., Zheng, Y., & Woodruff, P. W. (2001). Behavioural and functional anatomical correlates of deception in humans. NeuroReport, 12, 2849–2853. doi:10.1097/00001756-200109170-00019.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Stevens, M., Lammertyn, J., Verbruggen, F., & Vandierendonck, A. (2006). Tscope: A C library for programming cognitive experiments on the MS Windows platform. Behavior Research Methods, 38, 280–286. doi:10.3758/BF03192779.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643–662. doi:10.1037/h0054651.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stuss, D. T., & Knight, R. T. (2013). Principles of frontal lobe function. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Suchotzki, K., Verschuere, B., Crombez, G., & De Houwer, J. (2013). Reaction time measures in deception research: comparing the effects of irrelevant and relevant stimulus–response compatibility. Acta Psychologica, 144, 224–231. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.06.014.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tarłowski, A., Wodniecka, Z., & Marzecová, A. (2013). Language switching in the production of phrases. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 42, 103–118. doi:10.1007/s10936-012-9203-9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vandierendonck, A., Liefooghe, B., & Verbruggen, F. (2010). Task switching: Interplay of reconfiguration and interference control. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 601–626. doi:10.1037/a0019791.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vartanian, O., Kwantes, P. J., Mandel, D. R., Bouak, F., Nakashima, A., Smith, I., et al. (2013). Right inferior frontal gyrus activation as a neural marker of successful lying. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 616. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00616.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Verbruggen, F., & Logan, G. D. (2009). Models of response inhibition in the stop-signal and stop-change paradigms. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 33, 647–661. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.08.014.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Verhoef, K., Roelofs, A., & Chwilla, D. J. (2009). Role of inhibition in language switching: Evidence from event-related brain potentials in overt picture naming. Cognition, 110, 84–99. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2008.10.013.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vermeiren, A., Liefooghe, B., & Vandierendonck, A. (2010). Switch performance in peripherally- and centrally-triggered saccades. Experimental Brain Research, 206, 243–248. doi:10.1007/s00221-010-2401-5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Verschuere, B., Ben-Shakhar, G., & Meijer, E. (2011a). Memory detection: Theory and application of the Concealed Information Test. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Verschuere, B., Spruyt, A., Meijer, E. H., & Otgaar, H. (2011b). The ease of lying. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 908–911. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.10.023.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Visu-Petra, G., Miclea, M., & Visu-Petra, L. (2012). RT-based detection of concealed information in relation to individual differences in executive functioning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 342–351. doi:10.1002/acp.1827.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Visu-Petra, G., Varga, M., Miclea, M., & Visu-Petra, L. (2013). When interference helps: increasing executive load to facilitate deception detection in the concealed information test. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 146. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00146.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vrij, A., & Granhag, P. A. (2012). Eliciting cues to deception and truth: What matters are the questions asked. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 119–117. doi:10.1016/j.jarmac.2012.02.004.

  • Walczyk, J. J., Igou, F. P., Dixon, A. P., & Tcholakian, T. (2013). Advancing lie detection by including cognitive load on liars: a review of relevant theories and techniques guided by lessons from polygraph-based approaches. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00014.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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, 755–774. doi:10.1002/acp.914.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Williams, E. J. (2012). Lies and Cognition: How do we tell lies and can we detect them? (Doctoral thesis, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK). http://orca.cf.ac.uk/40319/1/2012williamsephd.pdf.

  • Williams, E. J., Bott, L. A., Patrick, J., & Lewis, M. B. (2013). Telling Lies: The irrepressible truth? PLoS ONE, 8, e60713. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060713.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Yeung, N., & Monsell, S. (2003a). Switching between tasks of unequal familiarity: The role of stimulus-attribute and response-set selection. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 455–469. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.29.2.455.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Yeung, N., & Monsell, S. (2003b). The effects of recent practice on task switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 919–936. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.29.5.919.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Evelyne Debey is supported by Ghent University Grant BOF01D01010. Baptist Liefooghe and Jan De Houwer are supported by Ghent University Grant BOF09/01M00209.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Evelyne Debey.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 5.

Table 5 Questions used in Experiment 1

Appendix 2

See Table 6.

Table 6 Questions used in Experiment 2

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Debey, E., Liefooghe, B., De Houwer, J. et al. Lie, truth, lie: the role of task switching in a deception context. Psychological Research 79, 478–488 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-014-0582-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-014-0582-4

Keywords

  • Switch Cost
  • Task Switching
  • Repetition Trial
  • Switch Trial
  • Cognitive Cost