Who's Telling a Lie? Talk to Them One on One, Not in a Group

When was the last time you asked your family who misplaced the remote?  Did you ask them as a group, or one by one?  If you did it at the dinner table, chances are you would get a different answer than if you asked each member individually.

Apparently, it's easier to tell a lie (and not be caught) if you're asked in a group setting.

According to newswise.com, a study that examined deception in groups found that, if you want the truth, talk to people one at a time.

Scientists found that, in most of their studies, participants were interviewed separately. This raised concerns because how people respond in a group may be different from how they respond when alone.

"My interest into group deception developed as a result of my interest in collaborative memory, group dynamics and deception detection," says Dr. Zarah Vernham from the University of Portsmouth in the UK "In particular, I am interested in collective interviewing and the novel cues to deceit that emerge from such a technique."

While nothing seems more individual than memory, a group will have a collective memory of a shared event. As a group that's not telling a lie tells the story of an experience, members will interrupt each other, ask others within the group for clarification, and help each other remember. This active, dynamic process will be absent in a deceitful group which has merely memorized a script to make all their individual stories consistent.

Consistency is vital in police investigations. Unfortunately, in scientific studies, individuals who have memorized an account and prepared for an interview can have a very high degree of consistency within their own stories and between the stories of other suspects. Therefore using consistency as the main marker of truth isn't always accurate, and it must be used in tandem with other evidence.

Criminals, who are prepared with a script and prepared for an individual interview, make it more difficult for investigators to determine deceit. Standard procedures and police manuals all presume that groups of suspects will be interviewed separately in order to determine if they are telling the truth or being deceitful. Criminals also expect to be interviewed separately.

So who took that remote, anyway?


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