What predicts who will be more successful at deception? One important line of research had adolescents, aged 11 to 16, lie or tell the truth about their enjoyment of a soft drink that tasted either good or bad. Adult judges watched them on videotape and tried to determine if they were lying or telling the truth. Beforehand, the researchers had assessed each adolescent’s possession of social skills. As you might imagine, the more socially skilled kids were the most successful liars.
Our own research has investigated what it is that makes socially skilled people better liars than persons with less social competence. The primary reason that socially skilled people make better liars is that they are able to look “honest” regardless of whether they are lying or truth-telling. What are some of these honest-looking nonverbal cues? Speaking quickly, without hesitations or speech errors, and keeping a pleasant, positive facial expression, are cues that tend to be interpreted as truthful.
What about verbal cues? We found that when lying, successful liars are those who tell a “plausible” story or lie.
Feldman, R.S., Tomasian, J.C., & Coats, E.J. (1999). Nonverbal Deception Abilities and Adolescents’ Social Competence: Adolescents with Higher Social Skills are Better Liars. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 23, 237-249.
Riggio, R.E., Tucker, J.S., & Widaman, K.F. (1987). Verbal and nonverbal cues as mediators of deception ability. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 11, 126-145.
Author: Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College