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The Boston Globe


Uncommon Knowledge

Sounds true, but you seem like a liar

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

Can you spot a liar? No, but you can sense a liar. That’s the implication of new research from psychologists at the University of California Berkeley. After watching videos of suspects being interrogated about a mock crime, people couldn’t reliably discriminate guilt from innocence when explicitly asked to do so. However, they did do better than chance when given tests measuring automatic or even subliminal associations of the suspects’ faces with the words “truth” or “lie.” In other words, it looks like “less-conscious parts of the mind are equipped with the architecture for accurate deception detection, but that conscious reasoning compromises accuracy by imposing attribution biases and incorrect stereotypes about how liars behave.”

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