With a little practice, people can learn to tell a lie that may be indistinguishable from the truth, according to researchers from Northwestern University.
Their new study shows that with a certain amount of instruction and training, the art of deception can be perfected.
The researchers note that people generally take longer and make more mistakes when telling lies than telling the truth. That’s because they have two conflicting answers in their minds and are working to suppress the honest response, a previous study found.
That led the Northwestern researchers to investigate whether lying can become more automatic and less task demanding, with a little training.
The researchers said they found that instruction alone significantly reduced reaction times associated with participants’ deceptive responses.
They used a control group in which participants were told to speed up their lies and make fewer errors, but were not given time to prepare their lies. A training group received training in how to speed up their deceptive responses and were given time to prepare their lies.
In the training group, the differences between deceptive and truthful responses were completely eliminated, researchers report.
“We found that lying is more malleable and can be changed upon intentional practice,” said Xiaoqing Hu, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in psychology at Northwestern.
He said they were surprised that even in the instruction group, members who were not given time to prepare their lies and told only to try to speed up their responses and make fewer errors were able to significantly reduce their deceptive response reaction time.
“This was really unexpected because it suggests that people can be really flexible, and after they know what is expected from them, they want to avoid being detected,” Hu said, noting the findings could help in crime fighting.
“In real life, there’s usually a time delay between the crime and interrogation. Most people would have time to prepare and practice their lies prior to the interrogation.”
Source: Northwestern University