Strategic approaches to lying: Understanding their impact on psychological processes, cues to deception, and perceptions of observers

Stephen W Michael, University of Texas at El Paso


The current research examined the strategies implemented by liars, the relationships between these strategies and psychological processes related to deception, and the implications of these associations on perceptions of deceptive statements. In general, deception research has either ignored or superficially examined the types of strategies that individuals use to construct lies. However, these strategies may have significant impact on characteristics of the lie itself, and in turn, perceptions of the lie. Study 1 explored the various strategies that liars use and the association of these strategies to psychological processes involved in lying. Results demonstrated that participants used a wide range of strategies. Some relied solely on gist memory, others on verbatim, and others involved a mix of these forms of memory. There was also a relationship between this type of strategy and cognitive difficulty, where lying was easier for participants who used more truthful events in their statement. Study 2 assessed the effects of two specific lying strategies on perceptions of these statements: displacements (using verbatim) and novel lies (using gist). Results found that displacement lies contained higher levels of detail and more cognitive operations than novel lies. Study 3 then examined whether behavioral differences in the two types of lies led to differences in deception detection rates, finding that lie accuracy was significantly greater for novel lies than displacements. It appears that because displacements, compared to novel lies, are more similar to truths (e.g., they rely on actual experiences and require fewer cognitive resources), the cues displayed when using displacement make the statement appear more like truths than novel lies. This in turn makes it more difficult to identify displacements in comparison to novel lies.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Michael, Stephen W, "Strategic approaches to lying: Understanding their impact on psychological processes, cues to deception, and perceptions of observers" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3566553.