Deceptive Intentions: Can Cues to Deception Be Measured before a Lie Is Even Stated?

Can deceitful intentions be discriminated from truthful ones? Previous work consistently demonstrated that deceiving others is accompanied by nervousness/stress and cognitive load. Both are related to increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity. We hypothesized that SNS activity already rises during intentions to lie and, consequently, cues to deception can be detected before stating an actual lie. In two experiments, controlling for prospective memory, we monitored SNS activity during lying, truth telling, and truth telling with the aim of lying at a later instance. Electrodermal activity (EDA) was used as an indicator of SNS. EDA was highest during lying, and compared to the truth condition, EDA was also raised during the intention to deceive. Moreover, the switch from truth telling toward lying in the intention condition evoked higher EDA than switching toward non-deception related tasks in the lie or truth condition. These results provide first empirical evidence that increased SNS activity related to deception can be monitored before a lie is stated. This implies that cues to deception are already present during the mere intention to lie.

Ströfer, S., Noordzij, M. L., Ufkes, E. G., & Giebels, E. (2015). Deceptive Intentions: Can Cues to Deception Be Measured before a Lie Is Even Stated? PLoS ONE, 10, 1-17. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125237

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