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    Geven, Linda M. Ben-Shakhar, Gershon Kindt, Merel and Verschuere, Bruno 2018. Memory-Based Deception Detection: Extending the Cognitive Signature of Lying From Instructed to Self-Initiated Cheating. Topics in Cognitive Science,

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    Vrij, Aldert Mann, Samantha Leal, Sharon and Fisher, Ronald 2012. Is anyone there? Drawings as a tool to detect deceit in occupation interviews. Psychology, Crime & Law, Vol. 18, Issue. 4, p. 377.

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    Reinhard, Marc-André and Sporer, Siegfried L. 2010. Content Versus Source Cue Information as a Basis for Credibility Judgments. Social Psychology, Vol. 41, Issue. 2, p. 93.

    Elaad, Eitan 2009. Lie-Detection Biases among Male Police Interrogators, Prisoners, and Laypersons. Psychological Reports, Vol. 105, Issue. 3_suppl, p. 1047.

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    Vrij, Aldert 2008. Practical Psychology for Forensic Investigations and Prosecutions. p. 89.

    Vrij, Aldert Akehurst, Lucy and Knight, Sarah 2006. Police officers', social workers', teachers' and the general public's beliefs about deception in children, adolescents and adults. Legal and Criminological Psychology, Vol. 11, Issue. 2, p. 297.

    Landström, Sara Granhag, Pär Anders and Hartwig, Maria 2005. Witnesses appearing live versus on video: effects on observers' perception, veracity assessments and memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 19, Issue. 7, p. 913.

  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

13 - Guidelines to catch a liar


A Warning

The guidelines which will be presented in this chapter are based upon psychological principles and research regarding deception and lie detection (I will use the words ‘lying’ and ‘deception’ interchangeably throughout this chapter). Most studies are conducted in university laboratory situations where people are asked to lie for the sake of the experiment. This might be seen as a serious limitation, as lying for the sake of the experiment might well be totally different from lying in police interviews. This issue will be addressed throughout the guidelines where relevant.


Research has convincingly demonstrated that catching liars is a difficult task and that people, including professional lie-catchers, frequently make mistakes when they attempt to detect deceit (Vrij, 2000a). In scientific studies concerning the detection of deception, observers are typically given videotaped or audiotaped statements of a number of people who are either lying or telling the truth. After each statement, observers (typically college students) are asked to judge whether the statement is truthful or false. In such tasks, guessing whether someone is lying or not gives a 50 per cent chance of being correct. Vrij (2000a) has reviewed thirty-seven lie-detection studies in which the observers were college students. The total accuracy rate, the percentage of correct answers, was 56.6 per cent, which is only just about the level of chance.

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The Detection of Deception in Forensic Contexts
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