These Visual And Verbal Cues Reveal When People Are Conspiring

gaze conspiracy coupleTruth tellers are more likely to gaze at each other.

Photo: ms.margie on

It’s a dangerous world, and it’s important to be able to detect when someone is lying to you — especially if you work in law enforcement.The U.S. Department of defence funded a study, “Social Indicators Of Deception,” to look into deception “at a social level,” or when two or more people are co-conspiring. University of Central Florida researchers wrote that “recent world events have led to an increased emphasis on the capability to detect deception, especially in the applied field settings, such as security checkpoints or screening contexts in airports, bus terminals, or train stations.”

They say that “several decades of research on individual deception has resulted in an experimental paradigm in which one person sits across a table and is questioned by another person … although this evidence indicates that certain individual-level cues are predictive of deception, these effects are generally weak.” 

To study lying in a broader social context, they asked 52 police officers and firefighters— all of whom were paired with a partner they regularly work with — to either recall a situation that happened in the past, or fabricate a story and make it sound as realistic as possible. Each pair was considered a “dyad.” The interviewer/researcher did not know if the dyads were assigned to tell the truth or a lie; and each interview was no longer than 5 minutes.

The researchers found a few key findings. Truth tellers were more likely to gaze at their partner, and both asked more questions of one another. They were also nearly seven times more likely to follow up on their partners’ response and make transitions.

According to the study,

“The results of this research suggest that deceptive communication between co-conspirators is characterised by less synchrony within deceptive dyads than within truthful dyads. … Deceptive communication between co-conspirators is characterised by a relative absence of interactive or social behaviours, such as gaze or speech conditions.”

Social interaction, deception study

Photo: University of Central Florida

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