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Deception Traits in Psychological Interviewing

Abstract

Deception researchers have attempted to improve people’s ability to detect deceit by teaching them which cues to pay attention to. Such training only yields limited success because, we argue, the nonverbal and verbal cues that liars spontaneously display are faint and unreliable. In recent years, the emphasis has radically changed and the current focus is on developing interview techniques that elicit and enhance cues to deception. We give an overview of this innovative research. We also consider to what extent current deception research can be used to fight terrorism. We argue that researchers should pay particular attention to settings that are neglected so far but relevant for terrorism, such as (i) lying about intentions, (ii) examining people when they are secretly observed and (iii) interviewing suspects together. We will commence this paper with general information that puts our reasoning into context. That is, we turn briefly to physiological and neurological lie detection methods that are often discussed in the media, then to the theoretical underpinnings of nonverbal and verbal cues to deceit, and the research methods typically used in nonverbal and verbal lie detection research.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Please note that when people overwhelmingly say that liars avert their gaze, it does not mean that they always rely on gaze aversion when they attempt to detect deceit. For example, Vrij (1993) correlated the behaviors displayed by videotaped liars and truth tellers (gaze behavior, smiling, different types of movements, stutters, etc.) with the veracity judgments made by the police detectives who observed these videotapes. The gaze patterns displayed by the liars and truth tellers did not predict the police detectives’ veracity judgments in this particular study, whereas smiling (people who smiled less were perceived as more suspicious) and movements (people who moved their arms and hands more were perceived as more suspicious) did.

    In a meta-analysis of such studies, Hartwig and Bond (2011) found a correlation of r = .27 between averting gaze and veracity judgements (people who avert their gaze are perceived as more suspicious). Although this correlation was significant, it was somewhat lower than some other behaviour/veracity correlations. The cues that had the strongest relationship with veracity judgments were incompetence (r = −.54) and ambivalence (r = .51). People who appear incompetent and/or ambivalent are judged as deceptive.

  2. 2.

    There are many interrogation manuals, and they are highly similar to each other (Vrij & Granhag, 2007). We will mainly focus on the Inbau et al. (2001) manual, because it is commonly used by police and military interrogators and hence is so influential (Gudjonsson, 2003).

  3. 3.

    The analysis was based on a combination of dichotomous truth/lie classifications and rating scale judgements.

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Vrij, A., Mann, S. & Leal, S. Deception Traits in Psychological Interviewing. J Police Crim Psych 28, 115–126 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-013-9125-y

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Keywords

  • Interviewing
  • Lie detection
  • Deception
  • Terrorism