More Lying

The subject of lying has come up here recently, with some tips on how to detect liars. But you’d expect that those whose job involves ferreting out liars, such as police officers or immigration judges, would be better at it than the rest of us. But this study claims that Swedish judges on the Migration Board (MB) are about as good at recognising the signs of lying as students:

Overall, the beliefs held by MB personnel were not more in tune with research findings on objective cues to deception than were the beliefs of the students. In addition, MB personnel often refrained from taking a stand concerning the relation between specific behaviours and deception; they exhibited substantial within-group disagreement […]

In fact, we all seem to make the similar stereotypical mistakes when judging lies, implying that we believe our lie detecting abilities are much better than they actually are:

[…] there is a lack of overlap between the cues research has shown to be associated with deception (objective cues) and the cues people believe to be associated with deception (subjective cues) […] Generally, these subjective cues to deception are indicators of nervousness. It seems as if people believe that a liar will feel nervous and act accordingly; however, far from all liars do […]

But is there any group that is actually good at detecting lies? Indeed there is: of convicted criminals. Why? The most likely hypothesis seems to be that criminals have much more experience in deception, and, crucially, have feedback: when they’re lied to, they generally discover it (to their cost) later.

So, unless you have a criminal record or a great experience in being lied to, the best is most definitely not to trust your gut.

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