The focal account: Indirect lie detection need not access unconscious, implicit knowledge

Chris Street, Daniel Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


People are poor lie detectors, but accuracy can be improved by making the judgment indirectly. In a typical demonstration, participants are not told that the experiment is about deception at all. Instead, they judge whether the speaker appears, say, tense or not. Surprisingly, these indirect judgments better reflect the speaker’s veracity. A common explanation is that participants have an implicit awareness of deceptive behavior, even when they cannot explicitly identify it. We propose an alternative explanation. Attending to a range of behaviors, as explicit raters do, can lead to conflict: A speaker may be thinking hard (indicating deception) but not tense (indicating honesty). In 2 experiments, we show that the judgment (and in turn the correct classification rate) is the result of attending to a single behavior, as indirect raters are instructed to do. Indirect lie detection does not access implicit knowledge, but simply focuses the perceiver on more useful cues. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-355
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number4
Early online date1 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


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