Category Archives: Deception

Lying in the elementary school years

secretschildrenMore research on how we learn to lie:

The development of lying to conceal one’s own transgression was examined in school-age children. Children (N = 172) between 6 and 11 years of age were asked not to peek at the answer to a trivia question while left alone in a room. Half of the children could not resist temptation and peeked at the answer. When the experimenter asked them whether they had peeked, the majority of children lied. However, children’s subsequent verbal statements, made in response to follow-up questioning, were not always consistent with their initial denial and, hence, leaked critical information to reveal their deceit. Children’s ability to maintain consistency between their initial lie and subsequent verbal statements increased with age. This ability is also positively correlated with children’s 2nd-order belief scores, suggesting that theory of mind understanding plays an important role in children’s ability to lie consistently. (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved

Last month on the Deception Blog we reported that according to a study by Leif A. Strömwall, Pär Anders Granhag and Sara Landström, by the ages of 11-14, children are able to deceive adults 54% of the time, when given the chance to prepare their lies (and even when they can’t prepare the figure is 43% …).

More on children and lying over on the Deception Blog here.


Photo credit: michaelatacker, Creative Commons License.

Increasing Honest Responding on Cognitive Distortions in Child Molesters: The Bogus Pipeline Revisited

science and machinesAn article in the March 2007 issue of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment presents the results of an experimental comparison between child molesters’ responses on a questionnaire and their responses when attached to a fake lie detector known as a ‘bogus pipeline’. Here’s the abstract:

Questionnaires are relied upon by forensic psychologists, clinicians, researchers, and social services to assess child molesters’ (CMs’) offense-supportive beliefs (or cognitive distortions). In this study, we used an experimental procedure to evaluate whether extrafamilial CMs underreported their questionnaire-assessed beliefs. At time one, 41 CMs were questionnaire-assessed under standard conditions (i.e., they were free to impression manage). At time two, CMs were questionnaire-assessed again; 18 were randomly attached to a convincing fake lie detector (a bogus pipeline), the others were free to impression manage. The results showed that bogus pipeline CMs significantly increased cognitive distortion endorsements compared to their own previous endorsements, and their control counterparts’ endorsements. The findings are the first experimental evidence showing that CMs consciously depress their scores on transparent questionnaires.

The article is interesting on many levels: let’s unpack it a little.

Continue reading Increasing Honest Responding on Cognitive Distortions in Child Molesters: The Bogus Pipeline Revisited

Special issue of the Journal of Personality Assessment: the Personality Assessment Inventory


The first issue this year of the Journal of Personality Assessment 88(1) is a special issue on the Personality Assessment Inventory, with free access to full text articles. There are several papers here that will be of value to anyone who is interested in measurement of malingering and deceptiveness, and a few more that are of interest in a broader forensic context.

More details below the fold.

Continue reading Special issue of the Journal of Personality Assessment: the Personality Assessment Inventory

New issue: Psychology, Crime & Law

journalsVolume 13 issue 2 of Psychology, Crime & Law (April 2007) is now online,  and it’s one of those rare issues where I’ll be reading almost every article.

Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Risk and need assessment in British probation: the contribution of LSI-R – Peter Raynor
  • The influence of sample type, presentation format and strength of evidence on juror simulation research – Ma Eva Martín; Leticia De La Fuente; E. Inmaculada De La Fuente; Juan García
  • The usefulness of measuring spatial opportunity structures for tracking down offenders: A theoretical analysis of geographic offender profiling using simulation studies – Wim Bernasco
  • The roles of interrogation, perception, and individual differences in producing compliant false confessions – J. P. Blair
  • Automation of a screening polygraph test increases accuracy – Charles R. Honts; Susan Amat
  • Heuristics in causal reasoning and their influence on eyewitness testimony – Caroline A. C. Remijn; Hans F. M. Crombag
  • Guilty and innocent suspects’ strategies during police interrogations – Maria Hartwig; Pär Anders Granhag; Leif A. Strömwall

Truth serums and “brain fingerprinting” used in Indian serial killer case

A serial killing case in India has caused quite a stir in recent weeks, with suspicions that the murders are linked to human organ trafficking operations and allegations of police incompetence in investigating the disappearances of the children. The Observer (UK, 7 Jan) explains:

Forty or more people, ranging from a boy aged 10 months to a 32-year-old mother of three, may have fallen victim to two of India’s most prolific serial killers as the authorities revealed their suspicion that murders may have been carried out to harvest body parts such as kidneys, livers and kneecaps.

[…] Yesterday, as police fought to control further riots by angry locals, the leader of India’s ruling coalition, Sonia Gandhi, made a surprise visit to the scene of the crime and harshly criticised the local police handling of the investigation. Responsibility for it has now been handed over to India’s top federal investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.

In the last week, six police officers have been suspended after it emerged that Pandher, the prime suspect in the case, was arrested 13 months ago following a series of complaints from local residents in the slum bordering his house who suspected his involvement in the disappearance of their children. But the suspect walked out of the police station the same night.

Two men have been arrested in the case, and CNN-IBN News (5 Jan) explains what lies in store:

The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, is currently conducting a narco-analysis test on the two accused in the Nithari serial killings case – Moninder Singh Pandher and Surinder.

[…] An anesthetist, a forensic expert and two psychologists. All of them are being given a comprehensive briefing by the Noida Police as to the questions that need to be posed to the accused once the truth serum has been administered.

[…] Assistant Director, FSL, Gandhinagar, V H Patel, “We inject drugs into a person, which makes his conscious mind relax. It is under the influence of these drugs that a person begins to speak out the things that he would normally try to hide.”

The chemical injected during the test is sodium pentathol, which is popularly known as the truth serum, for obvious reasons. […] The effect of the drug makes the person semi conscious, restricting their ability to manipulate answers or use their imagination.

In addition to the narco-analysis test, the Nithari accused will have to undergo a Brain Finger Printing Test and a Lie Detection or Polygraph Test.

[…] Says an FSL official, Namrata Khopkar, “Once the sensors are placed, and we show pictures to the accused and make them hear things. The way one’s brain reacts to these sounds can establish a lot of things.”

Both the use of sodium pentathol and “brain fingerprinting” techniques are highly controversial. Previous Deception Blog posts on ‘truth serums’ can be found here, and previous coverage of the use of brain scans by the Indian police can be found here and here.

Law and Human Behavior 30(5)

journalsThe October 2006 issue of Law and Human Behavior 30(5) is now available online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles. Access to LaHB is currently free.

Contents include:

  • Group Differences in Fairness Perceptions and Decision Making in Voting Rights Cases – Angela P. Cole, Ewart A. C. Thomas
  • Adults’ Judgments of Children’s Coached Reports – R. C. L. Lindsay, Victoria Talwar, Nicholas Bala, Kang Lee
  • Assessing the Generalization of Psychopathy in a Clinical Sample of Domestic Violence Perpetrators – Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Matthew T. Huss
  • Decision-Making About Volitional Impairment in Sexually Violent Predators – Cynthia Calkins Mercado, Robert F. Schopp, Brian H. Bornstein
  • Strategic Use of Evidence During Police Interviews: When Training to Detect Deception Works – Maria Hartwig, Ola Kronkvist, Pär Anders Granhag, Leif A. Strömwall
  • Symptom Overreporting and Recovered Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse – Harald Merckelbach, Elke Geraerts, Marko Jelicic

Behavioral Sciences & the Law 24(5)

The latest issue of Behavioral Sciences & the Law (Sept 2006) is out, and it’s a special on malingering, edited by Alan Felthous. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for free abstracts and access to the full text articles (subscription required, or you can pay per view).

  • Introduction to this issue: malingering – Alan R. Felthous
  • Psychopathy and malingering of psychiatric disorder in criminal defendants – L. Thomas Kucharski, Scott Duncan, Shannon S. Egan, Diana M. Falkenbach
  • Damages and rewards: assessment of malingered disorders in compensation cases – Richard Rogers, Joshua W. Payne
  • Do tests of malingering concur? Concordance among malingering measures – Melanie R. Farkas, Barry Rosenfeld, Reuben Robbins, Wilfred van Gorp
  • From flawed self-assessment to blatant whoppers: the utility of voluntary and involuntary behavior in detecting deception – Paul Ekman, Maureen O’Sullivan
  • Investigating the M-FAST: psychometric properties and utility to detect diagnostic specific malingering – Laura S. Guy, Phylissa P. Kwartner, Holly A. Miller
  • Adults’ ability to detect children’s lying – Angela M. Crossman, Michael Lewis

August posts on the Deception Blog

If you haven’t been checking the Deception Blog regularly, these are the items you missed last month:

Police officers ability to detect deception in high stakes situations – 29th August. Report of a study from Aldert Vrij and his colleagues at Portsmouth University, published in the latest issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology

How to detect bullshit – 28th August. Light-hearted guidance from Scott Berkun.

Time Magazine wonders how to spot a liar – 26th August

Newsflash for Aussies! – 22nd August. A programme on deception, which you can now watch again on the TV station’s website.

Weeding Out Terrorists: Officials Turn To Behavior Profiling To Find Would-Be Attackers – 22nd August. CBS news item highlighting the work of psychology Prof Mark Frank who is working, along with his former supervisor Paul Ekman, with the US TSA to develop methods of behavioural profiling.

New-age lie detector takes a different tack – 22nd August. Some comments on an interview with Dr Britton Chance, University of Pennsylvania, in the latest issue of the RCMP Gazette.

Behavioural profiling at airports – 19th August. The New York Times reports on behavioural profiling at airports.

Pages on deception on WikiHow – 18th August. Sadly unscientific pop advice on deception.

Which Travelers Have ‘Hostile Intent’? Biometric Device May Have the Answer – 14th August. A polygraph exam at check-in, madam?

Training law enforcement officers to detect deception – 13th August. A good overview of literature on deception detection training, and some sensible suggestions for improving training in this article from the latest issue of Police Quarterly.

Researchers say technology can show when and how a lie is created inside the brain – 11th August. The work of No Lie MRI, the commercial fMRI-for-deception-detection company. Scary.

Criteria-Based Content Analysis: An empirical test of its underlying processes – 1st August. The latest issue of Psychology, Crime and Law features an article by Aldert Vrij and Sam Mann from Portsmouth University (UK) on Criteria-Based Content Analysis.

Damn Interesting posts on the polygraph – 1st August.

News round-up 19 August

Some of the items in the news that caught my eye over the last week or two:

PRISONS: The Observer (13 Aug), in Jail doesn’t work, say crime victims, highlights a new study from Smart Justice that suggests that:

The vast majority of crime victims do not believe that prison reduces levels of offending […]. The surprising findings of the first survey of those whose lives have been affected by crime suggest the public is losing faith in the penal system.

BEHAVIOURAL PROFILING: The New York Times (16 August) provides more on behavioural profiling at airports :

[…] after the reported liquid bomb plot in Britain, agency officials say they want to have hundreds of behavior detection officers trained by the end of next year and deployed at most of the nation’s biggest airports. “The observation of human behavior is probably the hardest thing to defeat,” said Waverly Cousin, a former police officer and checkpoint screener who is now the supervisor of the behavior detection unit at Dulles. “You just don’t know what I am going to see.”

Even in its infancy, the program has elicited some protests. […] concerns were raised this week by two of the foremost proponents of the techniques, a former Israeli security official and a behavioral psychologist who developed the system of observing involuntarily muscular reactions to gauge a person’s state of mind. They said in interviews that the agency’s approach puts too little emphasis on the follow-up interview and relies on a behavior-scoring system that is not necessarily applicable to airports.

DATING VIOLENCE: A Wake Forest University press release dated 10 August reports on a new study on dating violence by adolescents who have been watching wrestling on TV:

The frequency of adolescents viewing wrestling on TV was positively associated with date fighting and other violent behaviors, according to a study, published by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the August issue of Pediatrics. […] Adolescents who watch wrestling on TV are exposed to a high frequency of violence between men and women, alcohol use and hearing women referred to in derogatory terms such as “bitch,” according to the study. In addition, the scenarios played out in the TV dramas often present violence as a solution to a problem.

MENTAL HEALTH: Hat tip to Psych Central (10 Aug) for a link to a piece on the BBC website on severe mental illness and criminal behaviour

UK experts studied 13 years of data from Sweden, where population data on mental health and crime is kept. It was found 18% of murders and attempted murders were committed by people with a mental illness. […] Dr Seena Fazel, the forensic psychiatrist who led the research, said: “The figure of one in 20 is probably lower than most people would imagine. […] In many ways the most interesting aspect of our findings is that 19 out of 20 people committing violent crimes do so without having any severe mental health problems.”

CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR: Maori slam ‘warrior’ gene study (ABC News, Australia, 9 August):

A New Zealand scientist says the country’s indigenous Maori people have a ‘warrior’ gene which makes them more prone to violent and criminal behaviour. Dr Rod Lea revealed his theory […] at the 11th International Congress of Human Genetics in Brisbane, Australia, acknowledging that it is controversial to suggest an ethnic group is predisposed towards criminal behaviour. Maori leaders immediately panned his claims. Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia told The Press newspaper that while she had heard of Maori having a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism, it was a big leap to include violent tendencies.

POLICING: The Philadephia Inquirer (13 August) published a review of sexual misconduct by police officers:

Hundreds of police officers across the country have turned from protectors to predators, using the power of their badge to extort sex, an Inquirer review shows. Many of those cases fit a chilling pattern: Once abusers cross the line, they attack again and again before they are caught. Often, departments miss warning signs about the behavior.

[…] Sex abuse by police has received little of the attention or urgency given police brutality or shootings. A handful of studies suggest the magnitude of the problem. In one of the earliest, Roger L. Goldman and Steven Puro of St. Louis University examined Florida cases from the 1970s and 1980s in which officers lost their law-enforcement certifications. […] A 2003 analysis found that sexual misconduct was the leading reason that officers lost their badges in Utah. […] Another study – called “Driving While Female” because so many cases begin with traffic stops – argues that the problem “parallels the national problem of racial profiling.” […] Criminologist Timothy Maher, who has surveyed chiefs and rank-and-file officers about sexual abuse, said the profession recognizes the issue but has not done much about it.

ROBBERY / JUVENILE CRIME: The Enquirer (Cinncinnati, 15 Aug), reports on a growing trend towards the involvement of teens in aggravated robbery and muses on the involvement of women in such crimes:

Last week, the FBI sent a memo to state bank robbery coordinators saying the agency is seeing an emerging trend in the number of juvenile bank robbery suspects. The trend is consistent with overall crime, the memo said. […] “We’re seeing women really taking a more aggressive role in bank robberies than in years past,” [FBI bank robbery coordinator] Trombitas said. “Women are more involved in violent crimes and bank robbery goes hand in hand with that.”

Recent posts to the Deception Blog

Latest posts on the Deception Blog:

Commercialisation of MRI for deception detection – 2nd July 2006
Coverage and commentary about two companies that are about to start offering commercial deception MRI tests

Testing the Behavior Analysis Interview – 2nd July 2006
A new article by Aldert Vrij and colleagues puts the Reid Technique’s BAI to the test.

FOI request from the ACLU aims to expose whether US Government agencies are using brain scanning technology to detect deception – 1st July 2006

Using polygraph tests during the security clearance process – 25th June 2006

Nature focuses on ethics of brain scanning to detect deception – 22nd June 2006
Two new articles putting MRI under the spotlight.

FBI to give police lie-detector tests – 19th June 2006
… and some police aren’t too happy about it.

Tremors of the Trade – Investigative tool or troublesome black magic? – 17th June 2006
Another valiant attempt to persuade law enforcement not to buy into the Voice Stress Analysis snake oil, from Warren J Sonne on Officer.Com.

Article on pathological lying – 16th June 2006
New article in The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology

Lies, Damned Lies and Résumés – 2nd June 2006
Comments on deception in résumés (or Curricula Vitae to us Brits).