Leanne ten Brinke,
Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law capsl.ca
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
Secrets and lies: Identifying the behavioural consequences of extremely high-stakes interpersonal deception
Abstract: Deception is a fundamental aspect of human communication and often is accompanied by facial expressions simulated or concealed to be consistent with the false message. Charles Darwin hypothesized that some facial muscle actions are beyond voluntary control may “leak” genuine emotion or reveal falsified expressions. Despite the uncritical acceptance of this notion in scientific and popular media arenas, little empirical work existed to substantiate these claims prior to our recent experimental investigations into the secrets of the human face. Complementing our laboratory research, we recently completed the most comprehensive study to date of extremely high-stakes, real-life deception. Televised footage of a large international sample of individuals emotionally pleading to the public for the return of a missing relative was meticulously coded for emotional presentation. About half of the pleaders eventually were convicted of killing the missing person based on overwhelming physical evidence. Failed attempts to simulate sadness and leakage of happiness revealed deceptive pleaders’ covert emotions and, in combination with verbal cues, differentiated honest and dishonest pleaders with unprecedented accuracy in the study of deception detection. These findings offer an important and novel advancement of our understanding of the nature of involuntary aspects of human communication.