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A social cognitive model of detecting deception

James Anthony Forrest, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In this dissertation, three studies investigate how a person's beliefs about the cues that indicate deception are related to actual accuracy in detecting deception. Based on social cognition research, it was hypothesized that people with accurate beliefs about the cues that predict deception are better at detecting deception only when those beliefs are cognitively available and activated. In contrast, without activation of appropriate beliefs, detection will be no better than for those with inaccurate beliefs. Study I tested this hypothesis in a laboratory study, where participants viewed video fragments of people who are either being honest or dishonest. A questionnaire measured participants' beliefs and the activation of these beliefs was accomplished by manipulating suspicion. Study I provided clear evidence for the main hypothesis, where suspicious participants who had accurate beliefs were better at detecting deception compared to other participants. In Study II, a modified belief questionnaire was administered to 669 undergraduate participants in order to have a better understanding of the attributes of a scale that attempts to measure people's beliefs about the cues that predict deception. Study III attempted to conceptually replicate Study I in a field study. Undergraduate participants watched a video of actual passengers who either were or were not attempting to pass contraband past an experimenter. This study did not show the same pattern of results as Study I, but did show that suspicious participants were better at detecting deception. Study IV attempted to teach and activate the beliefs about cues that predict deception. Either correct or incorrect beliefs were taught to the participants and participants, involvement was manipulated. The main test of the hypothesis in this study did not show an increase in accuracy for participants who were highly involved and given the correct cues, but indirect evidence suggest that belief accuracy may be related to participant's detection accuracy.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Forrest, James Anthony, "A social cognitive model of detecting deception" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3012130.