Linguistic Cues to Deception

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Virginia Tech


This study replicated a common experiment, the Desert Survival Problem, and attempted to add data to the body of knowledge for deception cues. Participants wrote truthful and deceptive essays arguing why items salvaged from the wreckage were useful for survival. Cues to deception considered here fit into four categories: those caused by a deceivers' negative emotion, verbal immediacy, those linked to a deceiver's attempt to appear truthful, and those resulting from deceivers' high cognitive load. Cues caused by a deceiver's negative emotions were mostly absent in the results, although deceivers did use fewer first-person pronouns than truth tellers. That indicated deceivers were less willing to take ownership of their statements. Cues because of deceivers' attempts to appear truthful were present. Deceivers used more words and more exact language than truth tellers. That showed an attempt to appear truthful. Deceivers' language was simpler than that of truth tellers, which indicated a higher cognitive load. Future research should include manipulation checks on motivation and emotion, which are tied to cue display. The type of cue displayed, be it emotional leakage, verbal immediacy, attempts to appear truthful or cognitive load, might be associated with particular deception tasks. Future research, including meta-analyses, should attempt to determine which deception tasks produce which cue type.

Revised file, GMc 5/28/2014 per Dean DePauw



computer-mediated communication, deception detection, natural language processing