A Stability Bias Effect Among Deceivers

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Abstract

Research examining how truth tellers’ and liars’ verbal behavior is attenuated as a function of delay is largely absent from the literature, despite its important applied value. We examined this factor across 2 studies in which we examined the effects of a hypothetical delay (Experiment 1) or actual delay (Experiment 2) on liars’ accounts. In Experiment 1—an insurance claim interview setting—claimants either genuinely experienced a (staged) loss of a tablet device (n = 40) or pretended to have experienced the same loss (n = 40). Truth tellers were interviewed either immediately after the loss (n = 20) or 3 weeks after the loss (n = 20), whereas liars had to either pretend the loss occurred either immediately before (n = 20) or 3 weeks before (n = 20) the interview (i.e., hypothetical delay for liars). In Experiment 2—a Human Intelligence gathering setting—sources had to either lie (n = 50) or tell the truth (n = 50) about a secret video they had seen concerning the placing of a spy device. Half of the truth tellers and liars where interviewed immediately after watching the video (n = 50), and half where interviewed 3-weeks later (n = 50; i.e., real delay for liars). Across both experiments, truth tellers interviewed after a delay reported fewer details than truth tellers interviewed immediately after the to-be-remembered event. In both studies, liars failed to simulate this pattern of forgetting and reported similar amounts of detail when interviewed without or after a delay, demonstrating a stability bias in reporting.

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