Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Are professionals really able to tell when someone is lying better than an average person?

In my entry for Educing Information, I claim that you can answer the question, “” with this resource. Here’s how:

  1. Open up this PDF book and look at the Table of Contents.
  2. Go to chapter 3, Research on Detection of Deception: What We Know vs. What We Think We Know, which starts on page 45.

On page 47 of the book (p. 80 of the PDF file), you’ll find:

Beliefs vs. Reality
People who adopt the belief that there are reliable cues to deception are frequently incorrect. Significant research has studied people’s beliefs about indicators that someone is being deceptive and their own attitudes and confidence about their personal ability to be deceptive. A summary of 57 studies examining beliefs about nonverbal cues to deception indicated that many people do not actually know what they think they know: in other words, their beliefs are just as often wrong as they are right.36 These patterns of erroneous beliefs are widespread and are found equally among professional interrogators/investigators and novices.7,37-40

Research into beliefs and attitudes about deception may have value for predicting how people might try to conceal deception on the basis of their own beliefs about cues to deception. This research may also facilitate the identification of erroneous beliefs that intelligence collectors may hold and that should be corrected in training. However, the study of attitudes and beliefs does not in itself provide information on which cues to deception actually work. Therefore, this line of research may at best provide indirect support to the development of effective and reliable methods for detecting deception.

Most behavioral research discusses indicators of deception in terms of nonverbal, paralinguistic, and verbal behaviors. The literature also contains global judgments of behavior that may potentially have some utility.

Some of the resources cited in the quote above are:

36. Vrij, A. (2000). Detecting Lies and Deceit: The Psychology of Lying and the
Implications for Professional Practice. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

37. Anderson, D. E., DePaulo, B. M., Ansfi eld, M. E., Tickle, J. J., and Green, E. (1998). “Beliefs about cues to deception: Mindless Stereotypes or
Untapped Wisdom?” Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 23, 67-89.

38. Bond, C. F., Kahler, K. N., and Paolicelli, L. M. (1985). “The Miscommunication of Deception: An Adaptive Perspective.” Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology 21, 331-345.

39. Stromwall, L.A., and Granhag, P.A. (2003). “How to Detect Deception? Arresting the Beliefs of Police Officers, Prosecutors and Judges.”
Psychology, Crime and Law 9(1), 19-36.

40. Vrij, A., Semin, G. R., and Foppes, J.H. (1996). “Lie Expert’s Beliefs about Nonverbal Indicators of Deception.” Gedrag en Organisatie 9 (1),

 Educing Information is just one resource from the World of Espionage section of Writer’s Guide to Government Information:


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