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"Can you remember what was in your pocket when you were stung by the bee?" - Eliciting cues to deception by asking the unanticipated.

Journal article
Authors Liu Meiling
Pär-Anders Granhag
Sara Landström
Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Leif Strömwall
Aldert Vrij
Published in Open Criminology Journal
Volume 3
Issue 1
Pages 31-36
ISSN 1874-9178
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 31-36
Language en
Keywords Children's deception, deception detection, suspects' strategies
Subject categories Social Sciences


In this paper we focused on children’s deception (10-12 years, Experiment 1), and adult’s ability detect deception in children (Experiment 2). The self-presentational perspective (DePaulo, 1992), suggests that both liars and truth tellers will try to act in a convincing manner to be assessed as truth tellers. By asking unanticipated questions we put the liars in the following dilemma: If they did not answer they would risk being considered avoidant and, thus, run the risk of being discredited. On the other hand, if they did answer they would risk failing to act like a truth teller, and thereby run the risk of being discredited. In Experiment 1 we predicted, and found, that liars’ attempt to actively create an honest impression (answer) overruled their attempt to passively imitate truth tellers (not answering). Specifically, liars (vs. truth tellers) were more willing to answer the unanticipated questions. Experiment 2 showed that adult observers had difficulty with discriminating between lying and truth-telling children (overall accuracy rate: 57%). Lie-catchers who had been exposed to children answering unanticipated questions did not outperform lie-catchers who had watched children answering anticipated questions. Our successful attempt to elicit a diagnostic cue to deception (willingness to answer unanticipated questions) is placed within the new line of research aimed at increasing lie-catchers’ ability to detect deception.

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