Deception


Is psychological science ever likely to devise an infallible method to detect deception? If so, how? If not, why not?


The detection of lies is a highly complex process as there is great variation between individuals. This makes the process of devising a test that will apply to everyone and be 100% accurate very difficult if not impossible. There will always be an individual motivated enough to devise a way of falsifying information. Some tests are more reliable than others but without the aid of a laboratory and equipment humans are bad at detecting lies. The detection of lies in a naturalistic setting appears to be so hard because of the great number of ways in which we are deceived on a day to day basis. A report by DePaulo and Kashy(1996) suggested that on average a person tells 1-2 lies a day. It is rarer for people to tell big lies about their whereabouts and actions but lies about feelings and preferences are common place. With this amount of deception about it would be impossible for an individual to pick up every lie that that they were told. However many people believe that they can detect major lies and that this ability is based upon previous knowledge and experience. To test this theory Ekman and O’Sullivan (1991) recruited Police Detectives, Judges and members of the Secret Service, all of whom were experienced in their field to judge whether actors in mock situations were telling the truth or not. Alongside this Ekman and O’Sullivan (1991) replicated the scenario with inexperienced college students. It was expected that these officials would be better at detecting a lie compared to the inexperienced college students. However, the researchers found that levels of lie detection between the two groups varied little. Both groups performed little better that chance. Some researchers argue that this is because most people think that they are good at detecting a lie. This probably originates from peoples inability to admit that they have been conned would because of self esteem and fear of being mocked by others. People also believe they have reliable ways of detecting a lie. This could be as simple as the person makes less eye contact so therefore they must be deceiving me (DePaulo and Friedman, 1998). Buller and Burgoan (1996) noted that patterns of behaviour in the deceiver and deceived vary between each situation. The wat the deception takes place depends very much on the deceiver’s expectations and motivations. Using one general method of lie detection would therefore produce results likened to chance. Successful deception also depends on the person being deceived; their relationship with the deceiver and the degree of suspiciousness the deceived is showing. Therefore It would appear that the deceiver has strategies that change depending on situation making detection very hard indeed. DePaulo, Lindsay, Malone, Muhlenbruck, Charlon and Cooper (2003) in a review of the literature found that many behaviours displayed by people who were deceiving showed few discernable links to the deceit. The human perceivers’ successful detection of the deceit is generally only that of chance, Which would suggest that humans do not have a built in strategy for predicting lies. This could partly be due to the role lies play in our lives such as lies which make people feel more positive about their selves or lies which protect people from sometimes painful truths. Humans have developed a complex society around lies and there is an etiquette surrounding the telling of lies. We have developed these strategies from complex inferences of the world around us allowing humans to grow into fully fledged liars. As children we start life by testing our own strategies of deception. Quite quickly children develop ways of successfully deceiving others around them, thus, making detection of a child’s lies harder than most people would believe.


In child studies it has been demonstrated that detecting a false statement such as a witness account in court by the jurors and judges may be a hard task to perform. For a child to lie they must first understand that others are capable of forming a false belief. This in, turn, allows the child to create their own false beliefs about the world around them and allow the child to devise new