Commentary: Can ordinary people detect deception after all?

Chris Street, Miguel A. Vadillo

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


No one likes to call someone a liar. But the authors of the tipping point account (ten Brinke, Vohs, & Carney, 2016) claim that it is evolutionary prudent to spot lies that can harm us in order to determine who to trust. As such, they propose the reputational costs of confronting a liar might be overcome by detecting lies unconsciously. When confronted with information that creates a threat response, the unconscious can use the threat response to detect deceptive cues and to unconsciously infer deception, all the while keeping this information out of the conscious mind. The account suggests this is beneficial because conscious awareness of the deception “could impel the perceiver to confront the liar” (p. 580). The account is controversial insofar as it claims that people can detect deception, in contrast to past work showing otherwise (47% detection rate of lies, and 61% of truths, resulting from bias to judge statements as true: Bond & DePaulo, 2006), and also makes novel claims about an unconscious ability. Although it is welcoming to see new theoretical approaches to lie detection, the account (a) makes claims that do not match the data and conclusions presented in the studies cited to build its case, (b) offers no testable definition of unconscious processes, and (c) contains internal contradictions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1789
Number of pages3
JournalFrontiers in Cognitive Science
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2017


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