Psychopathy and the ability to deceive

Frederick James Billings, University of Texas at El Paso


Individuals with psychopathic traits are likely to engage in varied deceptive behaviors. However, studies to date have not clearly shown that psychopathic individuals are more skillful deceivers than other individuals are. This study focused on the deception skills of participants who had been rated on the traits of psychopathy. The participants were asked to make true statements and false statements. Untrained university students attempted to distinguish the true statements from the deceptive ones. In addition, a separate group of trained researchers tallied the frequencies of Illustrators, Adaptors, Fidgets, and Speech Disturbances exhibited during the presentations. Sixty participants were rated on three measures of psychopathy; The Screening version of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-PCL: SV, (Hart, Hare, & Forth, 1994), the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Short Form-PPI: SF (Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996) and the Collateral Rating of Psychopathy (Lilienfeld, 2002). Subsequently they were judged on their level of truthfulness by 150 naïve raters. The results indicate that those individuals rated higher on psychopathic traits were significantly better at deceiving the naïve judges than those rated lower. The videotapes of the 60 participants' presentations were coded for verbal and nonverbal behaviors and analyzed for differences in the True and Pretend conditions. Only one result was notable. Presenters exhibited significantly more Illustrators (gestures) in the True condition than in the Pretend condition.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Billings, Frederick James, "Psychopathy and the ability to deceive" (2004). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3125565.