Behavioural Cues and Emotional Leakage Associated with Deception

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A question that has interested professional lie detectors and laypersons alike for centuries has been “is there a discernible way of distinguishing between people who are telling the truth and those who aren’t?” This is an especially important question when put in to the context of the legal system where a person’s guilt or innocence is at stake or where an accused could be falsely convicted or exonerated. The nature of lying is two-pronged, whereby morality and self-service collide; how we feel about deception is highly dependent upon the reason for telling the lie. Everyone lies. In fact, people lie on average twice a day (DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein, 1996) and would rather do so in an effort to censor themselves, then to express their true thoughts for fear of not being perceived in a positive light by others. We tell psychological lies for a number of reasons: to embellish or protect ourselves, to avoid tension or conflict in social interactions, or minimize hurt feelings (DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein, 1996).

However, forensic context lies are likely to be “high-stakes”, which carry extreme consequences both for the liar and the target of the lie; for example, lying to conceal infidelity or in the context of violent crime, terrorism, governments, and business/corporations (ten Brinke, L. & Porter, S., 2011). Moreover, contrary to white lies, most high-stakes lies are accompanied by evolutionary developments of unconscious communication of covert information (speech, body language and facial expressions) as well as powerful emotions (such as fear, remorse, anger, or excitement) that must be hidden and/or feigned in a convincing way (ten Brinke, L., Porter, S., & Baker, A., 2011). Darwin hypothesised that some facial expressions associated with strong emotional responses were not under voluntary control, could not be completely inhibited and cannot be engaged intentionally during emotional stimulation, forming the inhibition hypothesis (Darwin, 1872), which now gaining support. Consider the case of a mother publicly pleading for the safe return of her daughter who, in reality, she has murdered. The awareness of the potential enormous consequence of getting caught, along with the effort required to monitor one’s verbal cues, body language, facial expressions and stories, put a huge cognitive load on the deceiver. Simply put, it requires more conscious brain power to tell a lie than it is to tell the truth. (http://www.psychologicalscience.org) So while humans are notoriously better liars than lie detectors, deceivers face the challenge of maintaining their credibility (ten Brinke, L. & Porter, S. 2011). Furthermore, this cognitive load may result in “leakage” that may reveal our true emotions and intentions which a trained or scientifically informed observer might be able to pick up on. That is, an observable (and authentic) by-product of over extending cognition resources available to convey elaborate lies.

Therefore, because motivated lies of consequence are much more difficult to tell and maintain versus trivial daily deceptions, the researchers hypothesized that serious lies should trigger more subtle, yet detectable behavioural cues or emotional "leakage”. Moreover, those facial muscles that are under less cortical control, specifically the “grief” muscles, would more often contract in the faces of genuine pleaders versus the deceivers. They further proposed that deception is a fundamental aspect of human behaviour and communication that likely emerged early in human history (as a means for survival). This point of view strongly supports the Darwinian evolutionary theory (ten Brinke, L., Porter, S., & Baker, A., 2011). They intended to support their views using indicators that aligned with different theoretical orientations (as described below). I supported this hypothesis and believe they are on the right track to developing an effective lie detection...
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