Social Indicators of Deception


Sponsor: DOD Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA)

PI: James E. Driskell, Ph.D.



People attempt to deceive one another for a myriad of reasons, some trivial and some of significant practical import. Because the consequences of deception can be substantial, researchers have long been concerned with the practical task of detecting deception. Recent world events have led to an increased emphasis placed on the capability to detect deception, especially in applied settings such as security checkpoints or screening contexts in airports, bus terminals, or train stations. In these environments, perceivers attempt to detect deception on the basis of observable behavioral cues, such as facial expression, body movement, vocal cues, and patterns of speech.




Many opportunities for observation or interviewing of suspects in the field occur at the social or group level. For example, soldiers at a vehicle checkpoint may have the brief opportunity to question two or more suspects inside a vehicle, or military personnel may have the opportunity to interview two or more family members who are suspected to be co-conspirators or accomplices.  


The purpose of this project is to conduct research to investigate unique cues to deception that two or more people provide when they are deceiving.  The contribution of this research is that it extends existing research that only looks at individual deception by considering deception in a social context.  Therefore, the basic research question is: Are there indicators of deception that are observable at the social level, that may be evident when questioning two or more suspected co-conspirators? The results of this research will improve our capacity to elicit and validate information from sources in the field.