Lie Detection Using Behavioral Cues - Research Paper on Psychology

3 pages
592 words
Carnegie Mellon University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Truth and lies are important concepts in psychology. The ability to tell truth from lies depends on a keen assessment of the situation and the person involved. Psychologists have over years used polygraphs to detect the physiological changes in the body when a person is narrating an event. Polygraphs are, however, unreliable, and cannot be exclusively be used to rule out a lie. A number of behavioral cues are universally accepted as pointers to lie and truth telling. Like the polygraphs, behavioral cues are, too, subject to criticism due to their lack of specificity and sensitivity. There is often an overlap between the expression of some behaviors in truthful and made-up events. Additionally, liars can gain enough confidence to overcome any behavioral characteristics related to lie-telling. In the same manner, truthful people can express the behavioral cues due to other confounding factors like fear.

Lying is an emotionally involving activity. This means that there are various physiological processes that are at play in the background when somebody is lying. These psychological processes are identifiable from the outside through a change in behaviors of a liar. One behavioral change that is discernible among liars is fidgeting. A person who lacks confidence in their speech due to the fear of being apprehended is likely to play around with their fingers, and this can point to lying. Frequent changes in the sitting position also points to a possibility of lying. Truth-tellers are more likely to assume a fixed sitting position than liars in an interview. Sweating and constant hyperventilation in an investigative setting can also help a psychologist to tell when a lie is being told (ten Brinke, Stimson, & Carney, 2014). There are a number of verbal behaviors that also point to lying like frequent asking for repetition for a posed question.

Hartwig and Ford (2014) carried out a meta-analysis of behavioral cues that lie detectors look for in a person. After carrying out a study on 9380 subjects, the researchers concluded that the use of a combination of lie detection cues improves the accuracy in lie detection to a level of about 70%. Hartwig and Fords introduction places lies at the very center of the social misconduct. They opine that lying is a philosophical and psychological concept, and that it is a common phenomenon in the society. They argue that there is no yardstick or Pinocchios Nose that is very strongly related to lying. According to their article, lie detection is commonly applied in legal settings. A suspect is subjected to a series of questions by the investigator, and their level of truthfulness is assessed through the expression of lie-associated behavioral cues. In legal settings, suspects may be prompted to lie through motivation. The investor may in this situation set the environment to raise the concern of the lie to the suspect. When the suspect learns that their lie is of great concern, they begin expressing lie-associated behavioral clues more explicitly. However, this is not always so. As Hartwig and Ford (2014) prove, this tactic may be counterproductive. Motivation to tell a lie may strengthen confidence in a suspect to an extent that not an iota of lie is detected. With regards to the multiplicity of cues, this study finds a strong association between the chances of detecting a lie when using a number of cues as compared to using a single cue.


Hartwig, M., & Bond, C. F. (2014). Lie detection from multiple cues: A metaanalysis. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(5), 661-676.ten Brinke, L., Stimson, D., & Carney, D. R. (2014). Some evidence for unconscious lie detection. Psychological Science, 25(5), 1098-1105.

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