The Inconsistent Suspect: A Systematic Review of Different Types of Consistency in Truth Tellers and Liars

  • Annelies Vredeveldt
  • Peter J. van Koppen
  • Pär Anders Granhag


Many people believe that inconsistency is a sign of lying, and that consistency is a sign of truth telling. The present chapter assesses the validity of these popular beliefs. We review the literature on the relationship between consistency and deception, and present an overview of effect sizes obtained in studies on this topic. Four different types of consistency are explored, namely: within-statement consistency, between-statement consistency, within-group consistency, and statement-evidence consistency. We also discuss three interview approaches designed to amplify differences between liars and truth tellers—the unanticipated-question approach, the cognitive-load approach, and the Strategic Use of Evidence technique—and examine their impact on different types of consistency. Finally, we identify limitations and gaps in the literature and provide directions for future research.


Consistency Deception Suspects Interviewing techniques Unanticipated questions Strategic Use of Evidence 


  1. Aron, R., & Rosner, J. L. (1985). How to prepare witnesses for trial. Colorado Springs: Shepard’s/McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. D., Eysenck, M., & Anderson, M. C. (2009). Memory. Hove: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bond, C. F., & DePaulo, B. M. (2006). Accuracy of deception judgments. Personality & Social Psychology Review, 10, 214–234. doi:10.1207/s15327957pspr1003_2.Google Scholar
  4. Brewer, N., Potter, R., Fisher, R. P., Bond, N., & Luszcz, M. A. (1999). Beliefs and data on the relationship between consistency and accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 13, 297–313. doi:10.1002/(sici)1099-0720(199908)13:4<297::aid-acp578>;2-s.Google Scholar
  5. Buller, D. B., & Burgoon, J. K. (1996). Interpersonal deception theory. Communication Theory, 6, 203–242. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.1996.tb00127.x.Google Scholar
  6. Caso, L., Vrij, A., Mann, S., & De Leo, G. (2006). Deceptive responses: The impact of verbal and non-verbal countermeasures. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 11, 99–111. doi:10.1348/135532505x49936.Google Scholar
  7. Clark, S. E. (2012). Costs and benefits of eyewitness identification reform: Psychological science and public policy. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 238–259. doi:10.1177/1745691612439584.Google Scholar
  8. Clemens, F., Granhag, P. A., Strömwall, L. A., Vrij, A., Landström, S., Roos af Hjelmsäter, E., & Hartwig, M. (2010). Skulking around the dinosaur: Eliciting cues to children’s deception via strategic disclosure of evidence. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 925–940. doi:10.1002/acp.1597.Google Scholar
  9. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.112.1.155.Google Scholar
  10. Crombag, H. F. M., Van Koppen, P. J., & Wagenaar, W. A. (1992). Dubieuze zaken: De psychologie van strafrechtelijk bewijs (4th ed.). Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Contact.Google Scholar
  11. Dando, C. J., & Bull, R. (2011). Maximising opportunities to detect verbal deception: Training police officers to interview tactically. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 8, 189–202. doi:10.1002/jip.145.Google Scholar
  12. Dando, C. J., Bull, R., Ormerod, T. C., & Sandham, A. L. (2013). Helping to sort the liars from the truth-tellers: The gradual revelation of information during investigative interviews. Legal and Criminological Psychology, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/lcrp.12016.Google Scholar
  13. De Jong, M., Wagenaar, W. A., Wolters, G., & Verstijnen, I. M. (2005). Familiar face recognition as a function of distance and illumination: A practical tool for use in the courtroom. Psychology, Crime & Law, 11, 87–97. doi:10.1080/10683160410001715123.Google Scholar
  14. DePaulo, B. M., Lindsay, J. J., Malone, B. E., Muhlenbruck, L., Charlton, K., & Cooper, H. (2003). Cues to deception. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 74–118. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.129.1.74.Google Scholar
  15. Epley, N., Morewedge, C. K., & Keysar, B. (2004). Perspective taking in children and adults: Equivalent egocentrism but differential correction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 760–768. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2004.02.002.Google Scholar
  16. Fisher, R. P., & Perez, V. (2007). Memory-enhancing techniques for interviewing crime suspects. In S. A. Christianson (Ed.), Offenders’ memories of violent crimes (pp. 329–354). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Google Scholar
  17. Gallup, G. G. (1998). Self-awareness and the evolution of social intelligence. Behavioural Processes, 42, 239–247. doi:10.1016/s0376-6357(97)00079-x.Google Scholar
  18. Gilovich, T., Savitsky, K., & Medvec, V. H. (1998). The illusion of transparency: Biased assessments of others’ ability to read one’s emotional states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 332–346. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.75.2.332.Google Scholar
  19. Glenberg, A. M., Schroeder, J. L., & Robertson, D. A. (1998). Averting the gaze disengages the environment and facilitates remembering. Memory & Cognition, 26, 651–658. doi:10.3758/BF03211385.Google Scholar
  20. Granhag, P. A. (2010). The Strategic Use of Evidence (SUE) technique: A scientific perspective. Paper presented at the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG, FBI). HIG Research Symposium: Interrogation in the European Union, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  21. Granhag, P. A., & Hartwig, M. (2008). A new theoretical perspective on deception detection: On the psychology of instrumental mind-reading. Psychology, Crime & Law, 14, 189–200. doi:10.1080/10683160701645181.Google Scholar
  22. Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (1999). Repeated interrogations—Stretching the deception detection paradigm. Expert Evidence, 7, 163–174. doi:10.1023/a:1008993326434.Google Scholar
  23. Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2000a). Deception detection: Examining the consistency heuristic. In C. M. Breur, M. M. Kommer, J. F. Nijboer & J. M. Reintjes (Eds.), New trends in criminal investigation and evidence (Vol. 2, pp. 309–321). Antwerpen: Intresentia.Google Scholar
  24. Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2000b). Effects of preconceptions on deception detection and new answers to why lie-catchers often fail. Psychology, Crime & Law, 6, 197–218. doi:10.1080/10683160008409804.Google Scholar
  25. Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2001). Deception detection based on repeated interrogations. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 6, 85–101. doi:10.1348/135532501168217.Google Scholar
  26. Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2002). Repeated interrogations: Verbal and non-verbal cues to deception. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 16, 243–257. doi:10.1002/acp.784.Google Scholar
  27. Granhag, P. A., Strömwall, L. A., & Jonsson, A.C. (2003). Partners in crime: How liars in collusion betray themselves. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 848–868. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2003.tb01928.x.Google Scholar
  28. Granhag, P. A., Rangmar, J., & Strömwall, L. A. (2012a). Small cells of suspects: Eliciting cues to deception by strategic interviewing. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  29. Granhag, P. A., Strömwall, L. A., Willén, R. M., & Hartwig, M. (2012b). Eliciting cues to deception by tactical disclosure of evidence: The first test of the Evidence Framing Matrix. Legal and Criminological Psychology. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8333.2012.02047.x.Google Scholar
  30. Greuel, L. (1992). Police officers’ beliefs about cues associated with deception in rape cases. In F. Lösel, D. Bender & T. Bliesener (Eds.), Psychology and law —International perspectives (pp. 234–239). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  31. Hartwig, M., & Bond, C. F. (2011). Why do lie-catchers fail? A lens model meta-analysis of human lie judgments. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 643–659. doi:10.1037/a0023589.Google Scholar
  32. Hartwig, M., Granhag, P. A., Strömwall, L. A., & Vrij, A. (2005). Detecting deception via strategic disclosure of evidence. Law and Human Behavior, 29, 469–484. doi:10.1007/s10979-005-5521-x.Google Scholar
  33. Hartwig, M., Granhag, P. A., Strömwall, L. A., & Kronkvist, O. (2006). Strategic use of evidence during police interviews. Law and Human Behavior, 30, 603–619. doi:10.1007/s10979-006-9053-9.Google Scholar
  34. Hartwig, M., Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2007). Guilty and innocent suspects’ strategies during police interrogations. Psychology, Crime & Law, 13, 213–227.Google Scholar
  35. Hartwig, M., Granhag, P. A., Strömwall, L. A., & Doering, N. (2010). Impression and information management: On the strategic self-regulation of innocent and guilty suspects. The Open Criminology Journal, 3, 10–16. doi:10.2174/1874917801003010010.Google Scholar
  36. Hartwig, M., Granhag, P. A., Strömwall, L., Wolf, A. G., Vrij, A., & Roos af Hjelmsäter, E. (2011). Detecting deception in suspects: Verbal cues as a function of interview strategy. Psychology, Crime & Law, 17, 643–656. doi:10.1080/10683160903446982.Google Scholar
  37. Hedges, L. V. (1981). Distribution theory for Glass’s estimator of effect size and related estimators. Journal of Educational Statistics, 6, 107–128.Google Scholar
  38. Johnson, A. K., Barnacz, A., Yokkaichi, T., Rubio, J., Racioppi, C., Shackelford, T. K., Fisher, M. L., Keenan, J. P. (2005). Me, myself, and lie: The role of self-awareness in deception. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1847–1853. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.11.013.Google Scholar
  39. Jordan, S., Hartwig, M., Wallace, B., Dawson, E., & Xhihani, A. (2012). Early versus late disclosure of evidence: Effects on verbal cues to deception, confessions, and lie catchers’ accuracy. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 9, 1–12. doi:10.1002/jip.1350.Google Scholar
  40. Kassin, S. M. (2005). On the psychology of confessions: Does innocence put innocents at risk? American Psychologist, 60, 215–228. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.3.215.Google Scholar
  41. Lancaster, G. L. J., Vrij, A., Hope, L., & Waller, B. (2012). Sorting the liars from the truth tellers: The benefits of asking unanticipated questions on lie detection. Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi:10.1002/acp.2879.Google Scholar
  42. Leins, D. A., Fisher, R. P., Vrij, A., Leal, S., & Mann, S. (2011). Using sketch drawing to induce inconsistency in liars. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 16, 253–265. doi:10.1348/135532510x501775.Google Scholar
  43. Leins, D. A., Fisher, R. P., & Vrij, A. (2012). Drawing on liars’ lack of cognitive flexibility: Detecting deception through varying report modes. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 601–607. doi:10.1002/acp.2837.Google Scholar
  44. Lerner, M. J. (1980). The belief in a just world. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  45. Lipsey, M. W., & Wilson, D. B. (2001). Practical meta-analysis. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  46. Liu, M., Granhag, P. A., Landström, S., Roos af Hjelmsäter, E., Strömwall, L. A., & Vrij, A. (2010). “Can you remember what was in your pocket when you were stung by a bee?”: Eliciting cues to deception by asking the unanticipated. The Open Criminology Journal, 3, 31–36. doi:10.2174/1874917801003010031.Google Scholar
  47. Loftus, E. F. (2003). Our changeable memories: Legal and practical implications. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4, 231–234. doi:10.1038/nrn1054.Google Scholar
  48. Markson, L., & Paterson, K. B. (2009). Effects of gaze-aversion on visual-spatial imagination. British Journal of Psychology, 100, 553–563. doi: 10.1348/000712608X371762.Google Scholar
  49. Memon, A., Meissner, C. A., & Fraser, J. (2010). The cognitive interview: A meta-analytic review and study space analysis of the past 25 years. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 16, 340–372. doi:10.1037/a0020518.Google Scholar
  50. Milne, R., & Bull, R. (1999). Investigative interviewing: Psychology and practice. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  51. Potter, R., & Brewer, N. (1999). Perceptions of witness behaviour-accuracy relationships held by police, lawyers and mock-jurors. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 6, 97–103. doi:10.1080/13218719909524952.Google Scholar
  52. Roos af Hjelmsäter, E., Öhman, L., Granhag, P. A., & Vrij, A. (2012). ‘Mapping’ deception in adolescents: Eliciting cues to deceit through an unanticipated spatial drawing task. Legal and Criminological Psychology. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8333.2012.02068.x.Google Scholar
  53. Strömwall, L. A., & Granhag, P. A. (2003). How to detect deception? Arresting the beliefs of police officers, prosecutors and judges. Psychology, Crime & Law, 9, 19–36. doi:10.1080/10683160308138.Google Scholar
  54. Strömwall, L. A., & Granhag, P. A. (2005). Children’s repeated lies and truths: Effects on adults’ judgments and reality monitoring scores. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 12, 345–356. doi:10.1375/pplt.12.2.345.Google Scholar
  55. Strömwall, L. A., & Granhag, P. A. (2007). Detecting deceit in pairs of children. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 1285–1304. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2007.00213.x.Google Scholar
  56. Strömwall, L. A., & Granhag, P. A., & Jonsson, A.-C. (2003). Deception among pairs: “Let’s say we had lunch and hope they will swallow it!”. Psychology, Crime, and Law, 9, 109–124. doi:10.1080/1068316031000116238.Google Scholar
  57. Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2002). Development of lying to conceal a transgression: Children’s control of expressive behaviour during verbal deception. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 26, 436–444. doi:10.1080/01650250143000373.Google Scholar
  58. Ten Brinke, L., & Porter, S. (2012). Cry me a river: Identifying the behavioural consequences of extremely high-stakes interpersonal deception. Law and Human Behavior, 36, 469–477. doi:10.1037/h0093929.Google Scholar
  59. Ten Brinke, L., Porter, S., & Baker, A. (2012). Darwin the detective: Observable facial muscle contractions reveal emotional high-stakes lies. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 411–416. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.12.003.Google Scholar
  60. Van Koppen, P. J. (2012). Deception detection in police interrogations: Closing in on the context of criminal investigations. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 124–125. doi:10.1016/j.jarmac.2012.04.005.Google Scholar
  61. Vredeveldt, A., & Penrod, S. D. (2012). Eye-closure improves memory for a witnessed event under naturalistic conditions. Psychology, Crime & Law. doi:10.1080/1068316x.2012.700313.Google Scholar
  62. Vredeveldt, A., & Wagenaar, W. A. (2013). Within-pair consistency in child witnesses: The diagnostic value of telling the same story. Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi:10.1002/acp.2921.Google Scholar
  63. Vredeveldt, A., Hitch, G. J., & Baddeley, A. D. (2011). Eyeclosure helps memory by reducing cognitive load and enhancing visualisation. Memory & Cognition, 39, 1253–1263. doi:10.3758/s13421-011-0098-8.Google Scholar
  64. Vrij, A. (2006). Challenging interviewees during interviews: The potential effects on lie detection. Psychology, Crime & Law, 12, 193–206. doi:10.1080/10683160512331331319.Google Scholar
  65. Vrij, A., & Mann, S. (2001). Who killed my relative? Police officers’ ability to detect real-life high-stakes lies. Psychology, Crime & Law, 7, 119–132. doi:10.1080/10683160108401791.Google Scholar
  66. 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, 110–117. doi:10.1016/j.jarmac.2012.02.004.Google Scholar
  67. Vrij, A., Akehurst, L., & Morris, P. E. (1997). Individual differences in hand movements during deception. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21, 87–102. doi:10.1023/a:1024951902752.Google Scholar
  68. Vrij, A., Fisher, R., Mann, S., & Leal, S. (2008a). A cognitive load approach to lie detection. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 5, 39–43. doi:10.1002/jip.82.Google Scholar
  69. Vrij, A., Mann, S., Fisher, R., 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, 253–265. doi:10.1007/s10979-007-9103-y.Google Scholar
  70. Vrij, A., Leal, S., Granhag, P. A., Mann, S., Fisher, R., Hillman, J., & Sperry, K. (2009). Outsmarting the liars: The benefit of asking unanticipated questions. Law and Human Behavior, 33, 159–166. doi:10.1007/s10979-008-9143-y.Google Scholar
  71. Vrij, A., Granhag, P. A., & Porter, S. (2010a). Pitfalls and opportunities in nonverbal and verbal lie detection. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 11, 89–121. doi:10.1177/1529100610390861.Google Scholar
  72. Vrij, A., Mann, S., Leal, S., & Fisher, R. (2010b). ‘Look into my eyes’: Can an instruction to maintain eye contact facilitate lie detection? Psychology, Crime & Law, 16, 327–348. doi:10.1080/10683160902740633.Google Scholar
  73. Vrij, A., Granhag, P. A., Mann, S., & Leal, S. (2011). Outsmarting the liars: Toward a cognitive lie detection approach. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 28–32. doi:10.1177/0963721410391245.Google Scholar
  74. Vrij, A., Leal, S., Mann, S., & Fisher, R. (2012). Imposing cognitive load to elicit cues to deceit: Inducing the reverse order technique naturally. Psychology, Crime & Law, 18, 579–594. doi:10.1080/1068316x.2010.515987.Google Scholar
  75. Wagenaar, W. A. (2005). De diagnostische waarde van bewijsmiddelen. In M. J. Sjerps & J. A. C. van Voorhout (Eds.), Het onzekere bewijs: Gebruik van statistiek en kansrekening in het strafrecht (pp. 3–26). Deventer: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  76. Wagenaar, W. A., & Dalderop, A. (1994). Remembering the zoo: A comparison of true and false stories told by pairs of witnesses. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Experimental Psychology, Leiden University.Google Scholar
  77. Wagenaar, W. A., & Van Der Schrier, J. H. (1996). Face recognition as a function of distance and illumination: A practical tool for use in the courtroom. Psychology, Crime & Law, 2, 321–332. doi:10.1080/10683169608409787.Google Scholar
  78. Wagstaff, G. F., Wheatcroft, J. M., Caddick, A. M., Kirby, L. J., & Lamont, E. (2011). Enhancing witness memory with techniques derived from hypnotic investigative interviewing: Focused meditation, eye-closure, and context reinstatement. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 59, 146–164. doi:10.1080/00207144.2011.546180.Google Scholar
  79. Walczyk, J. J., Mahoney, K., Doverspike, D., & Griffith-Ross, D. (2009). Cognitive lie detection: Response time and consistency of answers as cues to deception. Journal of Business and Psychology, 24, 33–49. doi:10.1007/s10869-009-9090-8.Google Scholar
  80. 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, 887–909. doi:10.1177/0093854812437014.Google Scholar
  81. 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: Academic Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annelies Vredeveldt
    • 1
  • Peter J. van Koppen
    • 2
    • 3
  • Pär Anders Granhag
    • 4
  1. 1.VU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.VU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.University of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

Personalised recommendations