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The Concise Encyclopedia of Communication by Wolfgang Donsbach

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D

Deception Detection Accuracy

Timothy R. Levine

Korea University

Deception detection refers to the extent to which people can correctly distinguish truths and lies. Social scientists have been studying accuracy in deception detection for several decades and this research leads to several well documented conclusions. In general, people are statistically better than chance at correctly distinguishing deceptive and honest messages, but not by much. In experiments where people could obtain 50 percent by mere chance, accuracy averages between 53 percent and 54 percent.

Besides near-chance accuracy, research also finds that most people tend to be truth-biased. That is, most people tend to believe messages more often than they infer lies. Because people guess honesty in deception detection experiments more often than they guess lie, accuracy on truths is typically higher than accuracy for lies. The finding that truth accuracy is higher than lie accuracy is known as the ‘veracity effect.’

Slightly-better-than-chance accuracy extends to research using student and non-student samples, motivated and unmotivated lies, lies involving interaction between people and non-interactive lies, spontaneous and planned lies, and is regardless of media. Studies involving face-to-face interaction, videotaped truths and lies, audio-only communication (e.g., telephone), and text-based media all yield accuracy levels slightly above chance.

Although it is commonly believed that liars can be caught by attention ...

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