A Liar and a Copycat: Nonverbal Coordination Increases with Lie Difficulty

Van Der Zee, Sophie; Taylor, Paul; Wong, Ruth; Dixon, John and Menacere, Tarek (2021). A Liar and a Copycat: Nonverbal Coordination Increases with Lie Difficulty. Royal Society Open Science, 8(1), article no. 200839.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.200839


Studies of the nonverbal correlates of deception tend to examine liars’ behaviours as independent from the behaviour of the interviewer, ignoring joint action. To address this gap, Experiment 1 examined the effect of telling a truth and easy, difficult and very difficult lies on nonverbal coordination. Nonverbal coordination was measured automatically by applying a Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) algorithm to motion-capture data. In Experiment 2, interviewees also received instructions that influenced the attention they paid to either the nonverbal or verbal behaviour of the interviewer. Results from both Experiments found that interviewer-interviewee nonverbal coordination increased with lie difficulty. This increase was not influenced by the degree to which interviewees paid attention to their nonverbal behaviour, nor by the degree of interviewer’s suspicion. Our findings are consistent with the broader proposition that people rely on automated processes such as mimicry when under cognitive load.

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