Chapter 4: Convincing Discourses

4.5.2 Application and detection of discourses of deception (prospectus)

Joseph Kopmeyer

English 102, October 2020

When choosing the subject of my final research paper, I’ve decided to keep with the theme of my synthesis essay and write about the discourse of deception. I chose this topic because everyone has personal experience using the discourse of deception: we have all told a lie at some point in our lives, but we’ve also tried to determine if someone was lying to us. The ability to detect lies is so commonly sought after that comic book writers have created superheroes with mind reading or truth detection powers, and those heroes are just as popular as heroes who have the power of flight or superstrength. In my final essay I want to explore the instincts, theories, and practices we (humans) have acquired as aides in understanding the verbal and non-verbal communication tendencies people use when they are engaged in the discourse of deception.

I’ve found in my writing that relating to each individual reader is important, even in a formal setting such as a research paper. Because this interest in truth detection is so widespread, the professional fields to which any research on this topic applies are virtually endless. Most obviously, governments and law enforcement agencies are constantly looking for effective ways to determine the sincerity of suspect’s words or actions. I want to spend quite a while during my research paper breaking down different law enforcement agencies’ approaches to truth detection and suspect questioning. From polygraph tests to pressured interrogations, law enforcement is the image that comes to many people’s minds when they think of lie detection. Furthermore, I think it will be especially important to compare research conducted in several different countries against each other, as I believe culture and popular belief may play a large role in many governments’ approaches to truth detection. To this end, I’ll apply research from an article titled “Looks like a liar? Beliefs about native and non-native speakers’ deception”. This paper compares the level of bias held by lay people toward speakers of their native language, to the level of bias held by police officers to the same group of people. The research in this article is applicable to my research question because it will reveal whether or not police officers hold a greater level of bias against non-native speakers than lay people of the same culture do. Another research article I plan on referencing in relation to police officer’s methods of truth detection is “ ‘He’s guilty!’: Investigator Bias in Judgments of Truth and Deception”. I’ll use this research to show whether there is or is not a difference in bias exhibited by officers of varying levels of training, and if this bias plays a large part in false convictions of innocent people.

Secondly, I’d like to look at the discourse of deception through a psychological lens. Research questions in this portion of my paper will be focused on the impact of my sources’ information on the mental studies community, and how this research changes or reaffirms long held beliefs about human psychology. Much of the commonly held conceptions about lie detection and deception revolve around subconscious ques or physical “ticks” that a liar just cannot help but commit. I will conclude this portion of my essay by either affirming these conceptions with proof from my academic sources or by refuting them as myths if the research reveals them to be misconceptions. This is an extraordinarily complex area of research, but I want to include it in my essay because the psychology behind deception is truly the groundwork for all the research papers and other sources I’ll be using in my paper. Research articles I’ll be referencing in this section include: “The Liar’s Walk: Detecting Deception with Gait and Gesture”, which searches for physical signs of deception exhibited in a subject; “Deception and truth detection when analysing nonverbal and verbal cues”, which compares the reliability of verbal ques of deception to non-verbal ques of suspects in a high stress situation; and “Reading Lies: Nonverbal Communication and Deception”, which focuses on lie detection and it’s psychology at work in the mind of the deceiver.

From the section about the psychology of interpersonal deception, I will move on to speak about self-deception and how it affects us personally, as well as the rest of society. I chose this as the subject of a portion of my essay because it is so common that many of us don’t even realize when we are engaged in this discourse. One might deceive themselves into thinking they have time to push the snooze button on their alarm in the morning. Or, more destructively, one might convince themselves that smoking “really isn’t all that bad”. Not only is self-deception the most prevalent form of the discourse, but an argument can be made that self-deception may also be the most destructive form of dishonesty. To explore these ideas, I will refer to two academic sources – the first being “Self-deception facilitates interpersonal persuasion”, followed by “On the Fringes of Moral Responsibility: Skepticism, Self-deception, Delusion, and Addiction”. Both these sources are a unique commentary on self-deception, the former focusing on self-persuasion’s effects on oneself and how it can morph interpersonal relationships, while the latter dives more deeply into the destructive nature of self-deception and its utilization by the mind (especially the mind of someone struggling with addiction). My hope is that this portion of my essay will pull the paper together nicely by once again relating to each reader on a personal level. We’ve all been guilty of self-deception to one degree or another, so while other ideas such as suspect interrogation or gesture analysis may seem foreign, I’d like to end on a relatable subject that would be interesting to nearly anyone.

While I mentioned a certain order in which I will address individual aspects of the discourse of deception, my plan is to not focus on writing my research paper exactly as I have planned out. The general ideas and sources will remain the same, yes, but the order in which they’ll be laid out will be completely fluid as I write. Personally, I find it easiest to write with an idea of what I’d like to say, but then make structural decisions as I go along. I intend to follow that system for my final research essay. I believe my topic of researching the discourse of deception is relevant to writing studies because every form of communication is affected by dishonesty in some way. If one expects to be able to function in any discourse, they must hold a certain level of trust that the information they are receiving is truthful, and because of this, we are always on the lookout for liars. However, the intention of my research paper is not to echo commonly held beliefs about lie detection, but to shed a light on the true means by which we might recognize the discourse of deception, and debunk any myths about the subject that my reader may believe. Hopefully, once someone has finished reading my essay they will feel a little bit more like a superhero, or at least be more impressed by their favorite hero’s power of truth detection.

Research Questions

  • What methods have laypeople and law enforcement agencies created to determine the sincerity of others?
  • Does local cultureinfluence lie detection methods?
  • Is there a bias toward lie detection amongst law enforcement officers, and does this bias change with the level of training individuals receive?
  • Are popular beliefs/myths about lie detection backed up by any scientific research?
  • Can subconscious or nonverbal cues give away deception?
  • How does self-deception affect us individually, as well as societally?
  • Is self-deception more,or less destructive than interpersonal deception?

Annotated Bibliography

Leach, Amy‐May, et al. “Looks like a liar? Beliefs about native and non‐native speakers’ deception.” Applied Cognitive Psychology 34.2 (2020): 387-396.

This article contains research from a study whose objective was to measure levels of bias toward non-native speakers of a language in comparison to native speakers. The study also compared the bias of police officers against this group of people in comparison to the bias of laypeople. The article outlines the difficulty non-native speakers have in appearing honest, simply because of the language barrier. However, the study conducted showed no difference between the bias of laypeople and the bias of law enforcement officers.

Meissner, Christian A., and Saul M. Kassin. ““He’s guilty!”: Investigator bias in judgments of truth and deception.” Law and human behavior 26.5 (2002): 469-480.

This Canadian article seeks to find an answer to the question of whether a law enforcement officer’s level of training effects his or her natural bias in favor of a guilty or innocent ruling, and whether training in lie detection increases the officer’s success rate. With a focus on criminal interrogations as opposed to everyday truth detection, the study conducted for this article will be especially useful in my essay segment focused on law enforcement’s truth detection methods.

Randhavane, Tanmay, et al. “The Liar’s Walk: Detecting Deception with Gait and Gesture.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1912.06874 (2019).

“The Liar’s Walk…” is a research article about a study whose goal was to teach an artificial intelligence algorithm to detect deception through studying a subject’s gait and gesture. The results of the research state that deceitful subjects tend to look around and place their hands in their pockets more than honest subjects, but not by a large margin. This study is pertinent to my essay because there is a widespread belief that physical cues are trustworthy in lie detection, and I want to put forth evidence as to why that preconception is, or is not, accurate.

Vrij, Aldert, Maria Hartwig, and Pär Anders Granhag. “Reading lies: Nonverbal communication and deception.” Annual review of psychology 70 (2019): 295-317.

This article covers a wide range of topics regarding deception, but focuses on the psychological side of the discourse. Vrij takes a close look at the potential psychological background to certain non-verbal cues of deception, ranging from emotional to moral theories driving the mind of a deceptive individual. The author then breaks down multiple studies about non-verbal cues that have been performed in the past and describes why the statistics derived from them are or are not accurate.

Smith, Megan K., Robert Trivers, and William von Hippel. “Self-deception facilitates interpersonal persuasion.” Journal of Economic Psychology 63 (2017): 93-101.

This article breaks down two theories of motivation for self-deception: its intrapersonal effects and its interpersonal effects. The former theory suggests that self-deception is a form of self-preservation – a way to protect oneself from an unhappy truth. The latter theory suggests that self-deceits aids an individual in the deceit of others. The idea is that if someone convinces themselves of a lie, they have an easier time repeating the lie and appearing genuine. I will take a look at both theories presented by this article in my research paper.

Gibson, Quinn Hiroshi. On the fringes of moral responsibility: Skepticism, self-deception, delusion, and addiction. Diss. UC Berkeley, 2017.

This paper explains the effects of self-deceit on not only an individual, but also the people around them. It also examines the difference between intentional fooling of oneself and the more automatic self-preserving delusions that we create completely subconsciously. The article goes especially in depth when breaking down self-deception’s role in addiction, which will be important to my essay as I seek to answer the question of “which form of deceit is the most harmful: interpersonal or intrapersonal?”

Tenbrunsel, Ann E., and David M. Messick. “Ethical fading: The role of self-deception in unethical behavior.” Social justice research 17.2 (2004): 223-236.

This paper looks at the psychology behind self-deceit and how it can be used by an individual to justify unethical decisions. It points out that this aspect of unethical behavior is often overlooked in various forms of ethics training and may serve to undermine the effectiveness of moral instruction. This subject fits well in the self-deception portion of my essay and I may use it to link this segment to the segment focused on the psychology of deception.

Tsikerdekis, Michail, and Sherali Zeadally. “Online deception in social media.” Communications of the ACM 57.9 (2014): 72-80.

This article exposes the widespread use of deception in the social media space. Social media and virtual communication have massively impacted the way people socialize, but it is also a very easy way to spread misinformation and deceive those you converse with. The purpose of this article in my research paper may be to relate to the reader on a more personal level. In today’s day and age nearly everyone has had an experience with deception via social media.

Vrij, Aldert. “Baselining as a lie detection method.” Applied Cognitive Psychology 30.6 (2016): 1112-1119.

The purpose of this article is to expose the preexisting flaws in detection methods of non-verbal deception cues, specifically the baseline lie detection method. It goes on to suggest more effective strategies in lie detection and how these strategies can be implemented in interview and interrogation settings. This article will do well as an example of the flawed nature of most commonly used lie detection methods, but it also suggests some potential solutions to these issues, which will shed some light on how non-verbal lie detection may be superior to verbal detection.

Nelson, Raymond. “Scientific (analytic) theory of polygraph testing.” APA Magazine, 49 (5) (2016): 69-82.

This paper explores Hollywood’s favorite lie detection method: the polygraph test. It explains the science behind the test and the many situations in which the test has proven to be ineffective. I hope that the use of this article will help break any preconceived notions about lie detection that my reader may have, while explaining the correct, but unreliable science behind the world’s most famous lie detector. Information from this article will most likely fit best in the section of my essay devoted to lie detection in law enforcement environments.

Caso, Letizia, et al. “Police accuracy in truth/lie detection when judging baseline interviews.” Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 26.6 (2019): 841-850.

This study was conducted in Italy to determine the accuracy in their police force’s ability to detect lies. The study consisted of 10 subjects and 95 Law enforcement officers. The subjects were put through a staged robbery and then questioned. Of the 95 law enforcement officers, those with higher training correctly detected lies on an average of 54.78% of the time while less-trained officers only detected them 39.16% of the time. This study contradicts a previous source and will be used as a devils advocate citation.

Best, Greg, Jonathan Hodgeon, and Chris NH Street. “How contemporary theory informs lie detection accuracy and bias.” Crime Security and Society 1.2 (2018): 30.

This article focuses on the history of lie detection and maintained inaccuracy of modern tests. This source contains much information found in previously listed sources, but it will be useful as an extra citation for readers to receive the information. Specifically, this article breaks down the adaptive lie detector and truth default theories, as well as it reinforces previously mentioned research into lie detection biases. The article also suggests that non-verbal cues are indeed unreliable, and verbal cues best serve the investigator when trying to detect deception.




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