Social Signalling and Deception Experiment: Jeremy Kyle Style

 

By Richard Craven

Aim

To recognise whether verbal and non-verbal gestures are signs of deception and analyse which signs are more prevalent than others.

Methodology

32 randomly selected lie detection test videos from the Jeremy Kyle Show were used to examine potential signs of deception, highlighting empirical results from previous literature – including repetition without evidence, and body expression – analysed by human perception.

Body expression is separated into relaxed (comfortable posture, smiling and calm demeanour), mixed, and nervous (jittery, chair gripping, crossing feet, stuttering, hunch forward, avoiding eye contact). 

Results & Discussion

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The findings showed that there is no definitive distinction between a truth teller and a liar as there are a variety of shared traits. What we can recognise, however, is that there are both verbal and non-verbal cues which contribute to increase the likelihood of deception taking place.

From the data above, we can see that an elevation in pitch increases the probability that deception is occurring. However, volume of a persons voice is not an accurate predictor.

With regards to verbal analysis, the probability of deception is much higher if a lack of evidence is given and through a repeated denial of the same phrase – this may seem obvious, but humans are prone to truth bias – people want to instinctively believe what they see, hear or read. An apt example is "Fake News", because consumers want to believe information that is given to them, with little intent to rationalise the narrative or the statistics provided. Recent uproar in the media and the visibile influence of a few organisations on the public's perception of current affairs is perhaps why social media platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat are taking steps to reduce fake news from their platforms.

 
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Non-verbal behaviours highlighted that the human eye cannot accurately pinpoint a physical nervous disposition as an accurate measure of deception based on the evidence provided. This is partly because there are many different subconscious social cues that highlight deception, but are negatively influenced by the surrounding environment. For example, whether it being on stage in front of people, to being threatened or bullied by others, or the fact that the individual has some underlying anxiety prior to engagement. 

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However, those who have a relaxed disposition juxtapose this finding. The probability of deception is much lower if the individuals are relaxed in conversation – this is likely because they are confident in their personal affiliations than someone who is trying to deceive. The saying of: ‘you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide’ rings true in this instance.

It is then a question of how this evidence be applied into a real world setting. Whether it is differentiating genuity from deception, recognising a good investment from one covered in a should of mystery without evidence, or even a bit of office gossip; being able to distinguish between fact and fiction from the verbal and non verbal cues will allow individuals to make better-informed decisions.

Conclusion

Emotions (your System 1 thinking) are more powerful than your supposed rationality (your System 2 thinking). This is why signs of deception are recognisable in verbal and non-verbal expression – a System 2 dominant brain would be able to hide the emotional response from sight. This is also why fake news and deception is so prevalent in society: People want to believe everything as a result of their innate System 1 bias.

Jonathan Haidt sums up these points concisely, stating:

“The emotional tail wags the rational dog.”

 

This post follows up on our literature review "How to catch a liar". Click to give it a read and better understand current research on emotionality.

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