Types of Deception


Types of Deception


Unlike lying examined in the laboratory, lying in the real world encompasses a broader range of behaviors: it is often done for personal or ideological benefit, it may be harmful to the victim, and it is frequently carried out over a lengthy period of time. Deception encompasses a broader range of activities than just lying. It is possible to deceive without explicitly lying in certain circumstances.


Generally speaking, deception may be described as the manipulation of appearances in such a way that they communicate an incorrect representation of reality. In contrast, when one attempts to compile a comprehensive list of deceptions and the circumstances in which they occur, it becomes more difficult to identify a common set of characteristics that defines them all. 


A familial resemblance is what Wittgenstein (1953) describes as the best case scenario for the different kinds of deceit. Desimulation (withholding or concealing information) and simulation are both types of deception (putting out wrong or misleading information). It is possible to deceive and lie by omission as well as by action in both circumstances. Strangely enough, folk conceptions of deception are more prone than formal theories of deception to attribute moral importance to deceptions that are perpetrated by commission rather than by omission.


Conjuring or sleight-of-hand magic was considered the paradigm by the earliest psychologists who studied deceit (Hyman, 1989). Conjuring is, without a doubt, one of the few professions in which success is completely dependent on one’s skill to mislead others; When it comes to conjuring, deceit is essential; nevertheless, this kind of deception is distinct from the deception used by a confidence man or by an assassin. “Sanctioned deceit” is what a conjuror does, which implies that he or she has an implicit agreement with the audience that performing a successful job will include deceiving the spectators. An inability to mislead an audience would make a magician unworthy of the title of excellent magician. They are aware, even before the tricks are performed, that the conjuror’s “victims” have been duped by the magician’s illusions.



In contrast to conjuring, the effectiveness of deception is often dependent on the intended victims being unconscious that they are being deceived. In addition, many deceptions, unlike magic acts, are not accepted by the general public. Some kinds of lying and misleading are sanctioned, or at the very least tolerated, by societal norms, despite the fact that most cultures consider them to be unethical. “Social falsehoods” and “white lies” are examples of untruths that are accepted in the United States. Other instances of untruths that get little or no social condemnation include jokes, fantasies, taunting, and fibbing. According to these considerations, one way deceptions differ is in the perceived damage that they may do to other individuals or to society.

Various kinds and situations of deceit are shown in numerous instances. The ability to “trick” adults has been shown by a large number of teenage adolescents; some have achieved recognition as psychics or as people in the vicinity of whom poltergeist occurrences occur. 



It has been shown that both children and adults have been successful in convincing physicians to prescribe or even perform needless surgeries on their bodies. For as long as civilized societies have existed, consumer and health fraud have been a massive business. Armed forces and strategic deception have been in use from the beginning of time, when nations or even tribes existed as separate entities. Deception is highly prized and essential in games and sports, and feints and ploys are among the most effective methods of deception. Impersonators, fraudulent psychics, and gaming cheaters are all too common. Constantly taking advantage of people who seem to be eager participants in confidence games and swindles. 



In the criminal world, forgery is considered a kind of fraud. Increased attention has been drawn in recent years to plagiarism and other forms of dishonesty in the scientific community in papers and books (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, 1989). A growing number of philosophers, psychologists, and sociobiologists are becoming more interested in self-deception.

All of these types of deception are intriguing and deserving of further investigation, but the emphasis of this chapter is relatively narrow: two people engaged in face-to-face conversation. As a result, the issues of concealing and detecting deception are primarily concerned with leakage and the degree to which one of the parties can determine if the other is speaking or behaving deceitfully. How to use the results from laboratory studies in more realistic situations and in broader contexts of deception is one area that is being investigated.



In face-to-face communication, it is important to remember that the vast majority of important informational exchanges take place within a more complex organizational setting in which structural and psychological factors interact and influence the outcomes of the exchanges in significant ways. This is especially true when it comes to interpersonal communication. A short discussion of these additional difficulties follows.





The practice of conjuring was used as a model for deception by many psychologists in the late 1800s and early 1900s, in an attempt to create a psychology of deception (Hyman, 1989). The psychologists believed that by identifying and categorizing the principles that conjurors employ to mystify audiences, they would be able to offer a broad framework for comprehending all forms of deception in general. However, for the reasons stated above, conjuring is not the most effective method of deception.



One or two authors have attempted to create taxonomies as frameworks for a theory of deception; a good taxonomy aids in the identification of research that will have the greatest potential for contributing to the formulation of a comprehensive theory. Any taxonomy should be regarded as very preliminary at the outset; it is probable that it will be revised or replaced in the future.


There are many instances of deceit in a variety of forms and situations. The ability to “trick” adults has been shown by a large number of teenage adolescents, some of whom have achieved renown as psychics or as people in the presence of poltergeist occurrences. Both toddlers and adults have been successful in deceiving physicians into prescribing them needless medications and even performing unnecessary surgeries on them. In civilized nations, consumer and health fraud has always been a massive business with a long history. Military and strategic deception have been used from the beginning of time, when nations or even tribes existed. Feints and ploys are highly prized and essential types of deceit in games and sports, and they are often used to gain an advantage. Impersonators, fraudulent psychics, and casino cheaters are all over the place nowadays. Confidence games and swindles continue to take their toll on those who seem to be eager participants. Forgery is a kind of deceit that is prosecuted as a crime. In recent years, an increasing number of papers and books have been published on the subject of plagiarism and other forms of fraud in science (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, 1989). Self-deception has also lately gotten a lot of attention from philosophers, psychologists, and sociobiologists, among other disciplines.


All of these types of deception are intriguing and deserving of further investigation, but the emphasis of this chapter is relatively narrow: two people engaged in face-to-face conversation. In these situations, the issues of concealing and detecting deceit are primarily concerned with leakage and the degree to which one of the parties can determine if the other is speaking or behaving fraudulently on their behalf. One area of study is on how to apply the results from laboratory research to more realistic situations and to broader contexts of deception than have previously been explored.


It is important to remember that, although the focus is on two individuals in face-to-face communication, the vast majority of important informational exchanges take place within a more complicated organizational setting in which structural and psychological factors interact and play a significant role in determining the outcomes of the exchanges. These additional complications are briefly discussed below.



Several psychologists attempted to create a psychology of deception throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, with conjuring serving as the model instance for deception in their efforts (Hyman, 1989). The psychologists believed that by identifying and categorizing the principles that conjurors employ to mystify audiences, they would be able to offer a basic framework for comprehending all forms of deception. However, for the reasons stated above, conjuring is probably not the most effective method of fooling others.


In an attempt to create taxonomies as frameworks for a theory of deception, a few authors have attempted to do so. A good taxonomy aids in focusing attention on which research are most likely to contribute to the creation of an appropriate theory. At first glance, any taxonomy should be regarded as very preliminary; it is probable that differentiating between deceptions such as omission and commission, positive and negative, and intentional and unintended will be necessary. There are eight distinct types of deception that may be created by combining these two aspects.



As defined by Daniel and Herbig (1982), deception is defined as the purposeful distortion of reality in order to obtain a competitive advantage; as such, they vary from Chisholm and Feehan in that only intentionally misrepresented facts would be considered deceptions. They impose a further limitation, stating that the deception must be intended to provide the deceiver with a “competitive advantage.” There are three types of deceptions, according to the authors: cover, lying, and deceit. The term “cover” refers to the practice of concealing secrets and camouflaging oneself. Lying may be split into two categories: plain lying and lying with deception. In that it pulls the target’s attention away from the truth, lying is more active than cover. Using artifice goes beyond simple deception in that it includes altering the context in which the falsehood is delivered. Deception is not the same as lying; lying is more concerned with the acts of the liar, while deception is more concerned with the consequences on the receiver of the deception. A second kind of deception, ambiguity-increasing deception, is distinguished from ambiguity-decreasing deception in that whereas the former deceives by causing confusion among target participants, the latter misleads by increasing the attraction of one incorrect option.






According to Heuer (1982), who takes a different approach, deception may be classified according to the underlying psychological biases that are believed to be present. A number of perceptual and cognitive biases are listed, which he believes will be useful in developing a theory of deception and counterdeception. As a result of Heuer’s approach, it is possible to try to build a taxonomy on an ordering of the different exemplars of deception as well as on an ordering of psychological and social factors that may explain deceit. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Overall, the aim is to provide an explanation of the efficacy of deception that can be applied to other situations. However, one might argue that it would be more prudent to begin the search with a taxonomy that is based on surface similarities and differences among exemplars of deceit rather than a taxonomy that is based on deep parallels and differences. It’s possible that attempting to start with both kinds of taxonomies will be beneficial in the long run.




Attempts to develop a theory of deception include the use of the only taxonomy that has been subjected to rigorous testing. Based on a thorough examination of instances from war and conjuring, Whaley (1982) developed a taxonomy for the study of magic. His sources included diplomats, counter-espionage officers, politicians, businessmen, con artists, charlatans, hoaxers, practical jokers, poker players, gambling cheats, football quarterbacks and fencers as well as actors and artists. He also solicited input from mystery novelists and writers of mystery stories. The classification of an extensive collection of magic tricks was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the resultant framework. Whaley believes that all deceit is a kind of misunderstanding. He categorizes misperceptions into three categories: other-induced, self-induced, and illusions (or delusions). Self-induced misconception is often referred to as self-deception in the popular culture. Misperception brought on by others



consists of misrepresentation (unintentional misleading) and deceit in its true sense (deliberate misrepresentation).




According to Whaley, every deception is made up of two parts: dissimulation (covertly concealing what is real) and simulation (outwardly displaying what is genuine) (overt, showing the false). Masking, repackaging, and dazzling are three kinds of dissimulation, while imitating, inventing, and decoying are three types of simulation. Both types of dissimulation and simulation may be classified into three categories. Deception may be broken down into many categories, each with a corresponding level of efficacy. These categories include masking, repackaging, dazzling, imitating, inventing, and decoying. It is possible to get nine categories of deception by combining the three types of dissimulation with the three types of simulation in the same way. Whaley says that these nine kinds of deceptions are thoroughly classified; he was able to categorize every magic trick into one of these nine categories, according to Whaley. It remains to be seen if other researchers and independent judges will be able to utilize his method to consistently categorize the same magic acts, as well as other deceptions, into these categories, as he has done in this study.




Understanding deception in intelligence operations may be better understood via the use of a conceptual framework (Epstein, 1989). The concept is credited to the late J.J. Angleton, who served as a senior official in the Central Intelligence Agency and was also known for being a contentious figure there. The fundamental concept is that of a deception circle, which must contain at a bare minimum a victim (target individual or group), an inside person, and an outside person to be effective. The outsider is usually a hostile agent who has pretended to be an informant in order to get access to sensitive information. He serves as a source of misinformation for the target audience. However, in order for misinformation to be successful, the adversary must be aware of how the information is being received and understood by the target group.



 It is the inside guy (often a “mole” or other enemy agent who has managed to infiltrate the deepest sanctums of the target organization over a period of years) who provides feedback to the adversary. Through proper feedback, the adversary may modify and fine-tune the misinformation to be more compatible with what the target group thinks or wants to believe. When used in conjunction with other effective types of deception, such as confidence games, this deception circle offers a powerful and nearly seductive method of disseminating misinformation. The importance of making apparent that the dynamics of effective deception usually include organizational and societal variables in addition to the basic dyadic connection between the “informer” and the “informed,” despite the simplicity of this model.



The viewpoint is that folk psychology should have no place in society since many traditional assumptions about human behavior have shown to be incorrect. Attempting to construct a scientific psychology on the basis of folk psychology, according to this viewpoint, would impede development since it would begin with ambiguous, conflicting, and probably likely incorrect ideas as a starting point. These individuals believe that the study of psychology should begin with ideas and laws that have previously been shown to be helpful in other fields such as biology, physiology, and neuroscience before moving on to new concepts and laws.


The opposing viewpoint contends that any comprehensive study of psychology must take into consideration people’s views about their own and others’ mind and conduct in order to be considered complete. This is the point of view that has been approved in this chapter. We think that any effort to comprehend and explain deceit must take into consideration how ordinary people conceive deception in some way or another.


When it comes to deception, one apparent manner in which a folk psychology of deception may be relevant is via the leaking hypothesis, which holds that when individuals think that they are breaking a social norm, they enter a specific psychological state. Hormonal and muscle changes are associated with the feeling or condition of guilt, and these changes may be detectable by an observer. The greatest application of this theory, in my opinion, is to anticipate or detect deception on the basis of beliefs and actions that constitute deceptions and violations for a certain person. What a person thinks about lying and deceit is a component of that person’s folk psychology, which is influenced by their upbringing.


Two empirical studies have tried to characterize the way ordinary people think about lying and deceit, with mixed results. The investigators in both research were communication scientists (Hopper and Bell, 1984) and linguists (Hopper and Bell, 1984), despite the fact that they were psychological investigations (Coleman and Kay, 1981). An additional linguist went on to do a controversial examination of the Coleman and Kay research, which was published later (Sweetser, 1987). These findings are significant because they demonstrate that the paradigm laboratory experiment may be complemented by methods that better elicit leakage cues from members of different groups than the paradigm laboratory experiment.


In Psychological Space, there is a taxonomy.

In order to create a taxonomy of deception, researchers looked for systematic connections among deception words that were used by English speakers (Hopper and Bell, 1984). The scientists concluded that folk conceptions of deception identify six kinds of deception based on how their respondents categorized 46 words linked to deception. These are: playings, fictions, lies, crimes, masks, and unlies, among others. According to this taxonomy, the deception domain is organized in terms of perceived commonalities among the different ideas that are related to deception in some way. They assert that their taxonomy is hierarchical, which is supported by the evidence. Benign fabrications and exploitative fabrications are subsumed under two more general categories: fictions and plays; lies, crimes, masks, and unlies. The six categories may be further subsumed under two more general categories: benign fabrications and exploitative fabrications.


Using their taxonomy, Hopper and Bell are able to further organize their data by searching for characteristics or dimensions along which they may rank their categories in relation to one another. Their statistical studies reveal three of these dimensions, as well as hints to three more dimensions. The assessment dimension is the one that accounts for the majority of the ordering among the deception terms: it distinguishes between kinds of deception that are socially acceptable, harmless, and moral, and those that are socially undesirable, damaging, and immoral. The detectability and premeditation dimensions are the two additional dimensions that account for the majority of the ranking among their categories. Directness, verbal-nonverbal contrast, and duration are three other characteristics that may potentially be relevant in this situation.


The scientists asked their participants, 180 students at an American institution, to classify 46 words into groups that seemed to be related to one another in some way. The 46 words had been chosen to symbolize a wider collection of 120 deception keywords from which they were drawn. On the basis of this premise, the greater the number of respondents who placed the same two terms in the same group, the more psychologically related these two words were. In order to create a psychological space for these phrases, the authors employed multidimensional scaling to determine the degree to which each pair of words was comparable.


Using 10 bipolar adjective categories such as good-bad, harmless-harmful, moral-immoral, direct-indirect, Hopper and Bell asked another set of participants to evaluate each of the deceptive terms on a good-bad scale. When we conducted our own research, we combined these scores with factor analytic methods to create a psychological space for each of the 46 words. The space that was created was quite similar to the one that Hopper and Bell discovered using their clustering method in the first place. Our findings showed that two psychological dimensions were adequate to account for the differences in the words on the rating scales, according to our findings. Figure 1 depicts a two-dimensional representation of 31 words plotted in a two-dimensional space. (We have removed 15 of the words from the graph since they overlapped with other phrases and would have rendered the graph incomprehensible if they had been included.)


It is the concept represented by this figure that is important for our objectives. We designated one dimension as “harmfulness,” and the terms that scored highly on it (on the right-hand side) tended to be highly rated on scales such as bad, harmful, unacceptable, and immoral; the terms that scored highly on it (on the left-hand side) tended to be highly rated on the opposite scales, such as good, harmless, socially acceptable, and moral; and the terms that scored highly on it (on the right-hand side) tended to be highly rated on the It was determined that those things that scored well on this dimension (at the top) were evaluated highly on covert, indirect, and nonverbal communication; those items that scored highly on the other end of this dimension (at the bottom) were rated highly on overt, direct, and vocal communication. Take note that the idea of lying is shown in the bottom right-hand corner of the illustration. Lying was seen damaging, socially undesirable, and immoral by the respondents, who also characterized it as being very vocal and direct in their assessments. Deception also scores well on the harmfulness metric, although it scores only somewhat on the covertness metric. This indicates that the participants are aware that certain deceptions, such as lying, may be very vocal, but that they can also be nonverbal in nature. Fib and whopper are classified as close to lies on the covertness dimension, while they are classified as rather neutral on the harmfulness dimension. A white lie is considered to be just marginally harmless and marginally overt.


These data may have certain limitations that should be considered. The differences among the words are restricted by the limited number and range of rating scales that have been employed to evaluate them. It’s possible that certain key aspects of folk psychology of deceit were left out of the book. A more significant issue is that the importance of context is not taken into consideration. Despite the fact that it is covert, disguise is regarded as neutral in terms of harmfulness; nevertheless, a disguise employed for a costume party is very different from a disguise used to steal a bank. Perhaps the seemingly neutral rating merely reflects the fact that some respondents assessed it as detrimental while others ranked it as neutral, resulting in the seeming neutral rating. Similarly, although the majority of jokes are harmless, certain practical pranks may be very cruel and dangerous.


While these limitations are evident in the data collected by Hopper and Bell, they are likely to capture some key features of how students in our society perceive deceit. According to common sense, individuals who make a joke about who wrote their term paper would exhibit less leakage than subjects who tell a falsehood about who wrote their term paper out of desperation. We have gone into great length about this method because we think that, with appropriate modifications, it may be utilized to generate psychological spaces for many subgroups and cultures. On the harmfulness dimension, we would anticipate that various groups would have different views on which types of deceit should be classified as socially acceptable and which should be classified as socially undesirable. This may be valuable information, for example, if leakage signals to deceit are more often seen when a person is lying in a manner that is considered socially undesirable by his or her culture.


A Theory of Prototypes

Coleman and Kay demonstrated another another method of determining the psychological space available to deceit in their paper (1981). These authors conducted their empirical research of the term lie in order to launch an attack on the previously dominant checklist theories of meaning that had previously dominated the field. The checklist approach believes that the meaning of a word is comprised of a collection of characteristics, and that any item that has these characteristics belongs to the category described by the term under consideration. For example, the term bachelor refers to any item that is human, adult, male, and unmarried in the sense of the word. Those who exhibit all four of these distinguishing characteristics are considered bachelors, whereas those who do not possess one or more of these characteristics are considered non-bachelors, according to the checklist hypothesis. According to the traditional theory of meaning, the presence of these distinguishing characteristics is both required and sufficient for one to be considered a bachelor. A statement like this creates what is known as an equivalence class, which means that any individual who fulfills the criteria is on the same level as every other bachelor. Even before the classical theory was questioned in the 1970s, several academics had pointed out flaws in the term used in the classical theory. Is the Pope, for example, a married man or a bachelor? What about a widower or a widower’s son?


It is known as the prototype hypothesis, and it is a different way of looking at meaning that gained popularity in the 1970s. Theories of prototypes acknowledge

Intuitive belief that certain members of a category serve as better exemplars than others Colors have been used extensively in most of the early research supporting this idea (Rosch, 1975). For example, not all instances of the color red are created equal. Individuals from various cultural backgrounds agree that certain examples are better reds than others. More experimental studies using immediately observable items like as plants, animals, utensils, and furniture provided additional support for the prototype theory of perception. Coleman and Kay sought to demonstrate that the prototype phenomena can be found in terms that refer to less concrete things, such as the speech-act word lying, in order to demonstrate that the prototype phenomenon can be found in words that relate to less concrete things.



They began by using conventional language analysis to come up with a definition of what constitutes a “good” (true) lie. In order to tell a good lie, the speaker (S) must state some proposition (P) to the addressee (A) in such a way that:

P is false (in actuality, it is false);

S thinks that P is untrue (believes that P is false); and

S wants to mislead A by pronouncing the letter P. (intent to deceive).

For a statement to constitute a lie, according to the checklist or classical view, it must possess all three of these characteristics simultaneously. According to the prototype theory, a notion such as lying is a “fuzzy set,” in which various members differ in their degree of quality or proximity to the prototype. Statements that contain all three of these characteristics would be the most convincing instances of deception. Statements that had just two of the three qualifying characteristics might still be called lies, although they would not be very convincing instances of such statements. Statements that had just one of the characteristics would be regarded as much worse instances of deception. Finally, statements that did not contain any of these three characteristics would not be deemed to be deceptive.



Coleman and Kay (1981) performed an empirical test of the idea by creating short tales to match with each of the eight potential combinations of having or not possessing the characteristic. Coleman and Kay found that the hypothesis was correct. The following is the narrative that corresponded to the ownership of all three estates (see page 31): “

Moe had devoured the cake that Juliet had intended to give to her guests. “Did you eat the cake?” Juliet inquires of Moe. “No,” Moe responds. Is it possible that Moe lied?

The following is the narrative that corresponded to the lack of any of the three identifying characteristics: (p. 31)

Dick, John, and H.R. are out on the golf course. Dick’s ball is stepped on by H.R. After arriving and seeing his ball smashed into the ground, Dick asks “John, did you stomp on my ball?” “No, it was H.R. who did it,” John responds. Is it possible that John lied?

Every single one of Coleman and Kay’s 67 American subjects agreed that (1) was a falsehood and that (2) was not a lie, as was anticipated. Rather of focusing on the responses to the other tales, they were more concerned in how these respondents would react to stories that had one or two of the defining traits. Story (3), for example, had two distinguishing characteristics: it was untrue in reality and it was written with the aim to mislead. It lacked the feature that S considers P to be untrue, which was necessary.




Pigfat thinks he must pass by the candy shop in order to go to the pool hall, but he is mistaken since the candy business has relocated to a different location. Pigfat’s mother is not a fan of swimming pools. Pigfat’s mother asks him where he is going as he is about to go out the door with the intention of heading to the pool hall. “I’m going to stop by the candy shop,” he adds. Is it possible that Pigfat lied?

Pigfat’s remark was deemed a falsehood by 58 percent of the judges; 37 percent of the judges did not believe it was a lie; and 5 percent were unable to reach a judgment.

1 In general, the findings were in favor of the prototype design. The greater the number of distinguishing characteristics a tale had, the more likely it was to be deemed a fabrication. The authors noticed a few small deviations from the sequence anticipated by their hypothesis, but they were not significant. Part of the reason for these divergences may be traced to the fact that the substance of each tale was different. Coleman and Kay also solicited feedback from their research participants. Keeping in line with their hypothesis, the comments made reference to the three archetypal characteristics to explain why a statement was deemed to be a lie. However, the respondents also alluded to other characteristics, such as the reprehensibility of the actions and the motivations of the person who made the remark, in addition to their own.



The authors explain why they chose not to include some of these extra characteristics in the prototype for lie and provide examples of their reasoning. They differentiate between the characteristics of an idea that are archetypal and those that are typical. Their definition of a lie is words that the speaker thinks to be untrue, wants the listener to believe to be false, and that are in reality true, according to them. Lies are also usually terrible, but not in the way that one might expect. They conclude (Coleman and Kay, 1981:38) with the following:

Even though this is not the only plausible way to summarize our observations, we conclude that reprehensibility, while characteristic of typical acts of deception, is not a prototypical property of such acts and, as a result, does not play a role in the semantic prototype (or in the meaning) of the term “lie.”

This difference between the characteristics of a notion that are archetypal and those that are typical is contentious. We are not taking sides in this debate; rather, we are raising it because, regardless of whether reprehensibility is a prototype or typical characteristic of lying, it may be important for the leaking hypothesis. The expectation would be that only actions that are repugnant or otherwise morally unacceptable to a particular person would result in those states that cause nonverbal leaking. In order to gain a better understanding of how different cultural groups interpret various types of lying and deception, the Coleman and Kay approach should be expanded to include stories that differ in terms of properties such as perceived social acceptability, potential harmfulness, and other similar characteristics.



An Approach Based on Linguistics
Using the data from Coleman and Kay’s study, Sweetser (1987) proposes an alternate explanation for the findings. Her goal, like Hopper and Bell, is to explain the popular idea or conception of lying; but, unlike Hopper and Bell, Sweetser uses linguistic rather than psychological methods to accomplish this goal. Sweetser acknowledges that ideas may be thought of as fuzzy sets rather than conventional equivalence classes, but she argues for an alternative way of thinking about concepts.

She argues that the classical perspective of psychology may really be correct in the context of folk psychology. Using a prototype, simplified model of the world, she argues that the traditional definition for lying is correct. There are several maxims in this prototypical world, including the following: (1) be helpful; (2) correct information is helpful; (3) speakers only talk about information they have good reasons to believe is correct; and (4) listeners can correctly assume that speakers know what they are talking about Clearly, if the speaker’s remark is untrue in this archetypal setting, it is a lie, as is implied by the quotation marks.



As Sweetser argues, when people aren’t sure whether or not someone is lying, it isn’t because the particular act varies from the prototype lie, but rather because the conduct happens in a context that is different from the prototypical one. A joke is a deceptive remark made by the speaker with the intent of amusing the audience. As a result, according to Sweetser, the joke is not obviously a fabrication since the context in which it is told varies from the archetypal one. The ability to communicate accurate information is critical in the archetypal setting for defining a lie. However, in the context of a joke, the importance of playing is essential, and the need of delivering accurate information is immaterial. Subjects are uncertain if a joke is a lie because they are doubtful that a falsehood can occur in a situation in which the truth is unimportant, as is the case in this experiment.



When developing a taxonomy of deceit, Sweetser’s study of lying emphasizes the need of considering the environment in which the deception occurs. As a matter of fact, we think that a comprehensive taxonomy of deception will contain a taxonomy of the many settings in which each kind of deceitful conduct may be perpetrated.

Sweetser’s study draws attention to another problem that may be critical to the development of a sound taxonomy. She claims that if a speaker is able to mislead the target without explicitly lying, he or she would feel less immoral about themselves. It is her contention that deceivers experience less guilt when they mislead by implication rather than when they deceive by making an openly incorrect claim. (On the other hand, she argues that a victim who has been misled by implication feels greater anger than a victim who has been tricked directly.) If Sweetser is right, it is possible to predict that a deceiver is less likely to leak misleading signals while participating in indirect deception than when engaging in direct deceit when using indirect deception as a strategy.

The tests conducted by Druckman et al. (1982) have implications for this theory, which we have discussed above. These scientists discovered both parallels and differences in nonverbal behaviors exhibited between the two groups.



A comparison between participants in an evasion (indirect deception) condition and those in a direct deception condition was made. The findings of the discriminant analysis revealed that the evaders were more similar to deceivers than they were to honest individuals in terms of overall displays. Evaders and deceivers could be distinguished based on specific nonverbal behaviors displayed during specific time periods as well as deviations from baseline data: for example, deceivers made more speech errors (calculated as a deviation from a baseline period) than evaders, while evaders made fewer speech errors. These results indicate that evaders are not less prone to leak misleading signals than direct deceivers; rather, various cues may be leaked by indirect (evaders) and direct deceivers depending on their position in the game.


The issue of cross-cultural communication is fascinating. According to the anthropological, linguistic, and other relevant literature, a number of intriguing proposals have been presented. A cursory review of the literature yields a gloomy assessment of the likelihood of discovering universal indications of deceit. Some cultures seem to have ideas of what constitutes deceit and lying that are very different from those found in American folklore. Possibly even more disturbing is the assertion that in certain cultures, lying and misleading are not only socially acceptable, but are also seen as exemplary conduct when the fabrications are successful. This is based on a variety of situations.


The notion that a deceiver would only leak his or her intentions when intentionally misleading and breaking a social taboo is one of the reasons why these initial perceptions of cross-cultural differences are disappointing. As a result, one is faced with the challenge of determining what is regarded a socially undesirable fabrication across different cultural groups. As soon as such settings are identified, interrogations may be planned in such a way that informants, for example, are placed in a position in which lying while providing information to interrogators would be considered breaking a cultural taboo. According to our understanding of the literature, if a particular informant is involved in a lie that is considered socially undesirable, conditions may be established that will result in leakage if the informant is intentionally lying.



Our attention has been drawn to a folk psychology of deception because it seems to be the most promising approach to developing a general theory of deception. While in a certain psychological state, it is hypothesized that a specific person would exhibit possibly observable indications, which are called leakage signals. As previously stated, a key question is whether or not these diagnostic cues are universal—that is, whether or not they exhibit the same pattern across cultures and situations—and the evidence to date suggests that there may be aspects of leakage displays that are universal and aspects that are culturally specific.


If leaking is caused by an underlying psychological state, it is likely that this condition corresponds to what is usually described as guilt, shame, humiliation, disgrace, or dishonor—words that relate to how individuals feel when they break a social taboo—or any combination of these terms. Everyone is reared in a familial and cultural environment that teaches them what behaviors are considered socially undesirable. According to some researchers, this socialization process leaves a person with a somewhat persistent propensity to feel guilt or a comparable condition whenever he or she commits, or even contemplates committing, social infractions in the future. Such inclinations may persist even when a person, as an adult, deliberately rejects many of the ideals that were instilled in him or her throughout his or her formative years.


One assumption is that when individuals think they are in violation of a cultural standard, they will experience feelings of guilt across all cultures. Being familiar with the folk psychology of different cultures becomes essential if one want to understand what constitutes a cultural taboo for a particular person. In order to do so, the methods used by Hopper and Bell, as well as by Coleman and Kay, have been explored in considerable depth. Through appropriate refinement and adaptation of their techniques, researchers may learn about how people from different cultures and subcultures perceive deceit and lying. With this knowledge, one may then make educated guesses about what kinds of tales or acts are considered socially undesirable behaviors. If such results are made, they may be utilized to develop suitable stimuli that could trigger leaking if the person is, in fact, attempting to mislead others.


This approach makes the assumption that individuals have been socialized. Is there something to be said for people who have not been socialized? Psychologists and psychiatrists have labeled certain people as psychopaths or sociopaths in the past, but this is no longer the case. It is disputed whether such diagnostic categories are still helpful or acceptable in today’s world; the current trend is to refer to individuals as having a “antisocial personality.” Antisocial individuals, according to folklore and clinical observation, are able to lie and mislead effectively because they have underdeveloped social consciences and no emotions of remorse. With the use of the polygraph, a few tests have been carried out on such individuals; all of them have been contentious, and the findings have been conflicting. 2 The practical ramifications of whether antisocial individuals are better or worse than normal people at concealing and detecting deceit are not apparent at this time. For example, it is unlikely that an intelligence operative would choose to put their confidence in someone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, even if that person were to effectively mislead the adversary.



Partly because it has been the subject of the majority of the study, the discussion in this chapter (as well as in Chapter 9) is confined to the most basic of situations in which deception occurs: a face-to-face encounter between two people. Another reason is that a scenario like this serves as a starting point for thinking about how to extend the concept to more complex and realistic interactions.


A typical dyadic scenario is one in which two people engage with one other and each adjusts his or her behavior in response to what the other person says and does, as described above. Unlike this, however, all research into the leaking theory has been carried out in a very static, non-interactive manner throughout. In most cases, the detector makes decisions in response to a recorded presentation of the material. The detector is unable to continue and ask further questions, and the deceiver is unable to modify his or her conduct in response to input from the detector. However, this is just the environment in which regular dyadic conversation takes place.


If a detector is given the opportunity to engage with the sender, it is conceivable that he or she will do much better than the mediocre results thus far recorded. However, in an interactive format, the sender may actually do even better at concealing deceit since the deceiver may utilize feedback from the victim to modify both the content and the manner of presentation in order to be more acceptable to the recipient.


The Expressions Game is a game in which participants express themselves via facial expressions.

The idea of a “expression game” developed by Goffman (1969) represents the dynamics of interaction between a detector and a sender. Reading expressions accurately is made more difficult by the paradox that “the strongest evidence for (the detector) is also the best evidence for the sender to manipulate” (Goffman, 1969:63). In this situation, the detector’s task is to evaluate the importance of a cue while he or she knows that the sender is controlling his or her facial expressions. The detectorist must predict what the subject expects him or her to look for and then direct attention to alternative signals that the subject has not anticipated. When the sender is aware that the detector is evaluating his or her movements, he or she is faced with the task of trying to deceive the detector. This means that the sender has to predict and then regulate the cues that are likely to be utilized by the observer. Theoretically, according to Goffman (1969:58), “uncovering movements must at some point be matched by counter-uncovering moves.” Both the detector and the transmitter are susceptible to attack. Each individual’s goal is to reduce his or her susceptibility when faced with tough situations. Because of this evaluation problem, the expression game has evolved into a very complex art form.


Because of the dynamics of the expression game, there is an analytical challenge. The result of the communication process is determined by the actions of both senders (encoders) and receivers (decoders). The issue is one of disentangling the effects of senders and receivers from one another. Exact detection may be achieved via encoding skill, decoding skill, or a combination of the two. As a result, an analyst has no way of knowing if a detection was made as a result of presenting style or keen observation. An alternative approach is to manipulate a portion of the interaction, such as the sender’s enactments or the observer’s hints, as is done in the majority of laboratory studies. However, it is possible that one will lose the fundamental characteristics of an interacting scenario if one does so. This issue exemplifies the challenges encountered when transitioning from the laboratory to the field.


The World of Intelligence Agencies (World of Intelligence Agencies)

For example, according to Epstein (1989), theories of deception typically believe that deception works best when it can be customized to the expectations and wishes of the victim. Intelligence agencies try to customize their misinformation by utilizing input from victims to determine which elements of the disinformation are being accepted and which portions are being rejected by the target. One source of this kind of feedback is information gleaned through face-to-face contact between the informant and the interrogator, which is described below. However, in the realm of espionage, the most efficient type of feedback comes from an insider (or mole) who has gained access to the target organization. The deception loop is comprised of many levels of an organization’s hierarchy of trust. A supposed informer’s misinformation (lying) works its way from the controlling agent up through the different levels of the bureaucracy to the top of the food chain. A person on the inside observes how this information is being received and understood and reports back to the enemy agency. Meanwhile, the enemy agency modifies the misinformation being supplied by the informant in order to better meet the expectations and wishes of the adversary.


As this example demonstrates, deceit may and often does include many layers of organizational complexity at different levels of the organization. Deception operates at multiple levels in most real-world situations, and a complete understanding of how deception operates in these situations frequently necessitates considerations at multiple levels of analysis such as the international scene, the relationship between states, governmental structures, internal special interest groups, and so on.


a sufficient amount of accurate information combined with false information in order to guarantee that the case officer is rewarded and promoted As a result, the case officer becomes even more reliant on the informant’s ability to provide reliable information.


As soon as a case officer and his or her superiors come to the conclusion that an informant is trustworthy, the dynamics of the situation are skewed in favor of preserving the informant’s credibility. Informants’ careers may be made or destroyed if the agency determines that they were either genuine defectors or planted informants. A number of institutional and psychological variables come into play to help people retain their faith in the agent’s reliability, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the opposite later on. Many researchers, including Epstein (1989), Handel (1976), Watzlawick (1996), and Whaley (1998), have recorded instances of such institutional self-deception in action (1973).


The substance of information is usually accepted or rejected when an institution engages in institutional self-deception. In face-to-face communication, we have been concentrating on nonverbal signals rather than the substance of what is being conveyed, which has resulted in confusion. The two criteria for determining the trustworthiness of information are clearly intertwined. It is quite common for people to accept information as true when the substance of the information is compatible with the views and goals of the person receiving it. In research, it is essential to understand the connection between suspicion and detection accuracy — that is, how much a propensity to believe or disbelieve may overcome the capacity to identify deception signals — since it can lead to incorrect conclusions.



Following the debate in the chapter, we may come to four conclusions. In the first conclusion, it is assumed that leaking signals to deceit occur when an individual’s psychological condition reflects the feeling of guilt. This assumption is supported by the data. However, depending on an individual’s cultural background and life experience, the circumstances that cause them to feel guilty may differ. It would be more effective to identify deceit if one could predict the kind of situations that would constitute social transgression or a guilt-producing condition for certain people.


Methods for evaluating views of socially undesirable deceptions among subcultural groups include study into the folk psychology of deceit and the archetypal structure of lying, to name a few. Those techniques, with the appropriate modifications, may be used to determine which tales and fraudulent actions are most likely to cause leakage for certain people to occur.


Once the tales were found, they may be changed in a systematic manner to assess whether leaking happens (or is exacerbated) when a person deceives under circumstances that are contrary to his or her cultural norms. The study would examine the responses of different cultural groups to the same collection of tales, with different stories predicted to cause nonverbal leakage in different cultures. The findings would be presented in a report.



It is important to note that our second conclusion about cultural differences has practical implications. If deception is used, an interrogator may set up a scenario that would break a cultural taboo if the subject is deceived. One method of doing this is to use an interrogator who comes from a similar cultural background to that of the informant. The informant’s folk psychology believes that deceiving is unethical only when the victim is a member of the informant’s own culture, thus if the informant is, in fact, lying, this situation should provide leakage signals indicating that the informant is lying.




Lastly, the laboratory research paradigm as a method for researching deception signals should be expanded and modified, according to the third conclusion. Complex interactions between people working in organizational settings would need the use of contemporary quasi-experimental techniques, thorough surveys, and extensive case histories in addition to traditional laboratory studies in order to be fully understood. As a result of switching between experimental and field research, it is necessary to create statistical methods that will allow an investigator to perform the comparisons that they are interested in.




The fourth and final conclusion makes a suggestion for the usage of videotapes in research and training applications. Face-to-face encounters that continue throughout the day make it difficult to identify minor deceit signals. Exchanges between interrogators and informants that have been videotaped may be reviewed for information that may have been missed over the course of a continuous discussion. Independent observers may evaluate the interactions and provide judgements that are potentially devoid of the biases that participants may have had at the time. Furthermore, recorded conversations may offer baseline data on cues transmitted from a variety of communication channels, which can be useful in research. Such information may be used to determine whether or not a departure from previous behavior has occurred. They may also be used to teach people how to code nonverbal behavior for leaking indications, which can be quite useful.




1. Coleman and Kay received confidence ratings, as well as determinations of whether a statement was a falsehood, from their subjects. They were able to utilize these ratings to develop a more refined rating scale as a result of their efforts. Because of the need for simplicity, only the most basic judgements of lying are covered in this section.




2. Doctoral student Robin-Ann Cogburn of the University of Oregon is presently doing research with antisocial individuals who are currently incarcerated in the state correctional system. With them, she is testing the leaking hypothesis using a version of the traditional laboratory paradigm, which she developed herself.

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Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA, E.J. Epstein, 1989. Simon & Schuster, New York.

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