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This research examines question effects in deception detection. A first set of participants (N = 104) were given the opportunity to cheat to obtain a cash prize, and were then interviewed with accusatory, non-accusatory, bait, or false evidence questioning. A second set of participants (N = 157) watched videotapes of the interviews and made honesty judgments. Finally, interviewee behaviors were coded for demeanor. Overall, accuracy was high (72% overall, 70% excluding confessions, and 62% excluding confessions and adjusting for base rate). The type of question set made little difference in truth bias, accuracy, or demeanor, but false evidence questioning yielded 80% confessions compared to 20% confessions with non-accusatory questioning. No false confessions were obtained.
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The Impact of Accusatory, Non-
Accusatory, Bait, and False Evidence
Questioning on Deception Detection
Timothy R. Levine a , Hillary C. Shulman b , Christopher J. Carpenter
c , David C. DeAndrea d & J. Pete Blair e
a School of Media and Communication, Korea University
b Speech Communication, North Central College
c Department of Communication, Western Illinois University
d Department of Communication, The Ohio State University
e Department of Criminal Justice, Texas State University
Version of record first published: 16 Apr 2013.
To cite this article: Timothy R. Levine , Hillary C. Shulman , Christopher J. Carpenter , David C.
DeAndrea & J. Pete Blair (2013): The Impact of Accusatory, Non-Accusatory, Bait, and False Evidence
Questioning on Deception Detection, Communication Research Reports, 30:2, 169-174
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2012.762905
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BRIEF REPORT
The Impact of Accusatory,
Non-Accusatory, Bait, and False
Evidence Questioning on Deception
Detection
Timothy R. Levine, Hillary C. Shulman,
Christopher J. Carpenter, David C. DeAndrea, &
J. Pete Blair
This research examines question effects in deception detection. A first set of participants
(N ¼104) were given the opportunity to cheat to obtain a cash prize, and were then
interviewed with accusatory, non-accusatory, bait, or false evidence questioning. A
second set of participants (N ¼157) watched videotapes of the interviews and made hon-
esty judgments. Finally, interviewee behaviors were coded for demeanor. Overall, accu-
racy was high (72%overall, 70%excluding confessions, and 62%excluding confessions
and adjusting for base rate). The type of question set made little difference in truth bias,
accuracy, or demeanor, but false evidence questioning yielded 80%confessions compared
to 20%confessions with non-accusatory questioning. No false confessions were obtained.
Keywords: Confession; Deception; Interrogation; Lying
Timothy R. Levine (PhD, Michigan State University, 1992) is a professor in the School of Media and Communi-
cation at Korea University. Hillary C. Shulman (PhD, Michigan State University, 2001) is an assistant professor in
Speech Communication at North Central College. Christopher J. Carpenter (PhD, Michigan State University,
2010) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Western Illinois University. David C.
DeAndrea (PhD, Michigan State University 2011) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication
at The Ohio State University. J. Pete Blair (PhD, Michigan State University, 2004) is an associate professor in the
Department of Criminal Justice at Texas State University. This research was conducted with the support of the
National Science Foundation (Grant#SBE0725685). Correspondence: Timothy R. Levine, School of Media and
Communication, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea; E-mail: levine111@gmail.com
Communication Research Reports
Vol. 30, No. 2, April–June 2013, pp. 169–174
ISSN 0882-4096 (print)/ISSN 1746-4099 (online) #2013 Eastern Communication Association
DOI: 10.1080/08824096.2012.762905
Downloaded by [Michigan State University] at 11:54 19 April 2013
Question effects refer to the idea that how a potentially deceptive individual is
questioned may impact honesty judgments, detection accuracy, and behavioral
responses. It is well-documented that people are only slightly better than chance at
deception detection in most deception detection experiments (Bond & DePaulo,
2006). Recent results, however, suggest that accuracy might be improved by strategic
questioning (Hartwig, Granhag, Stromwall, & Kronkvist, 2006, Levine, Shaw, &
Shulman, 2010).
This experiment investigated the impact of four types of questioning strategies on
confession rates, veracity judgments, deception detection accuracy, and coded sender
demeanor. The first two types of questions investigated were accusatory and
non-accusatory. Accusatory questions imply or assert guilt or dishonesty;
non-accusatory questions do not. According to the behavioral adaptation explanation
(BAE; Buller, Stiff, & Burgoon., 1996; Stiff & Miller, 1986) and interpersonal deception
theory (IDT; Buller & Burgoon, 1996), questions that communicate suspicion lead the
person being questioned to strategically adapt their behavior to convey a more honest
demeanor. Senders interviewed with questions that imply suspicion, therefore, are
expected to act and to be judged as more honest, regardless of actual honesty.
The findings of at least two studies, however, suggest that BAE and IDT predic-
tions are unlikely to be obtained. Levine and McCornack (2001) found that it was
the mere presence or absence of probing, and not probe valence, that produced
the effect. Even more challenging to BAE and IDT predictions, Vrij, Mann, Kristen,
and Fisher (2007) found that accusatory questions tended to make interviewees look
deceptive. Although not previously investigated, accusatory questioning might be
reasoned to increase the confession rate above non-accusatory questioning because
there is less reason for a person to spontaneously confess if they do not believe they
are under suspicion. Accusatory questioning, however, could lead to false confessions
(Kassin & Kiechel, 1996).
With false evidence, the interviewer explicitly states, falsely, the existence of
evidence proving that the interviewee is lying. In the bait question, the existence of
evidence is implied in such a way that a guilty party may be fooled into leaking the
truth or providing an implausible dodge. In both, the interviewer is bluffing about
the existence of evidence to gauge the reaction from the interviewee or obtain a con-
fession. If a guilty interviewee believes that their guilt is known, then lying may lose its
efficacy, and the probability of confession is enhanced. This research asks how the four
types of questioning stack up in terms of generating confessions, false confessions,
judge believability, deception detection accuracy, and coded sender demeanor.
Method
This research was conducted in three phases. The first phase involved the creation of
a series of videotaped truthful and deceptive interviews and using one of the four
types of questions. The experiment involved a trivia game described in Levine,
Kim, and Blair (2010), Levine et al., (2011), and Levine, Shaw and Shulman
(2010). The version reported here involved running 104 undergraduate students
170 T. R. Levine et al.
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through the cheating experiment. All participants played a trivia game for a monetary
prize, and a confederate attempted to instigate cheating. After the trivia game, an
interviewer blind to actual honesty asked the questions from one of the four sets
of questions listed in Table 1 according to a randomized schedule.
Table 1 Accusatory, Non-Accusatory, False Evidence, and Bait Question Sets
Accusatory questions
1. Did you find the trivia questions difficult?
2. Was team work much of a factor, how so? Please explain.
3. How well do you think you did on the questions?
4. You did better than other groups. How would you explain your performance?
5. During the game, I had to call the experimenter out of the room. To get such a high score, you
must have cheated. Just admit it.
6. Why should you I believe you?
Non-accusatory questions
1. Did you find the trivia questions difficult?
2. Was team work much of a factor, how so? Please explain.
3. How well do you think you did on the questions?
4. How would you explain your performance?
5. During the game, I had to call the experimenter out of the room. What did you and your partner
do while the experimenter was out of the room?
6. Are there any other strategies or aspects of teamwork that you and your partner used to answer
the trivia questions that you have not told me about?
False evidence
1. Did you find the trivia questions difficult?
2. Was team work much of a factor, how so? Please explain.
3. How well do you think you did on the questions?
4. You did better than other groups. How would you explain your performance?
5. During the game, I had to call the experimenter out of the room. Did cheating occur when the
experimenter left the room?
6. As you know, we have already interviewed your partner. (S)he said that you cheated. Just
admit it.
Bait question
1. Did you find the trivia questions difficult?
2. Was team work much of a factor, how so? Please explain.
3. How well do you think you did on the questions?
4. You did better than other groups. How would you explain your performance?
5. During the game, I had to call the experimenter out of the room. Did cheating occur when the
experimenter left the room?
6. As you know, we have already interviewed your partner. Is there any reason why (s)he would
have answered the previous question differently?
Communication Research Reports 171
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In Phase 2, additional participants (N¼157; 62.3%women; mean age ¼19.6
years) watched one of four sets of 26 interviews, and judged each interviewee as a
cheater or a non-cheater. The resulting judgments were scored for percentage of
accuracy and the percentage judged as non-cheaters.
In Phase 3, seven trained and paid coders evaluated each of the 104 interviews on a
series of 10 behaviors or impressions linked with an honest demeanor. The demeanor
coding system is a proprietary system developed by Levine et al. (2011). In this cod-
ing, intercoder reliability for all 10 ratings was >.7, and the reliability for the index
was >.8. Higher scores on the demeanor index suggest that a sender is acting in ways
that are seen as universally honest (Levine et al., 2011).
Results
Of the 104 participants in the cheating experiment, 22 (21%) cheated. Of the 22 cheaters,
11 confessed under questioning (50%), and 11 denied cheating (i.e., lied about their
guilt). No non-cheater confessed (0%). The rate of confession varied, ranging from
20%with non-accusatory questions to 80%under false evidence questioning. These differ-
ences, however, were not significantly different, v
2
(3, N¼22) ¼3.60, p¼.31 (u¼.41).
In the detection data, confessions were believed 90.6%(SD ¼7.1%,SE ¼2.1%)ofthe
time, and denials were believed 69.7%(SD ¼17.6%,SE ¼1.8%) of the time. Excluding
confessions, truth bias did not vary by question condition, F(3, 89) ¼1.22, p¼.31
(g
2
¼.04). Planned comparisons failed to yield any pairwise differences.
Overall, participants correctly distinguished between cheaters and non-cheaters
with 72.2%(SD ¼17.5%,SE ¼1.7%) accuracy. Accuracy for confessions was
90.6%(SD ¼7.1%,SE ¼2.1%). Accuracy for non-confessions was 70.0%
(SD ¼17.2%,SE ¼1.8%; 62.3%adjusted for an unequal truth–lie base rate). Within
non-confessions, accuracy for truthful senders was 72.3%(SD ¼16.2%,SE ¼1.8%)
and 52.4%for liars (SD ¼14.1%,SE ¼4.3%). Excluding confessions, accuracy did
not differ by question condition, F(3, 89) ¼0.29, p¼.82 (g
2
¼.00). Planned compar-
isons failed to yield any pairwise differences.
Table 2 Confessions, Perceived Honesty, Detection Accuracy, and Demeanor Ratings
Under Accusatory, Non-Accusatory, False Evidence, and Bait Questioning
Variable Accusatory Non-Accusatory False evidence Bait
Number cheating 6 of 26 5 of 26 5 of 26 6 of 26
Number confessing 3 1 4 3
Cheaters confessing 50%20%80%50%
False confessions 0%0%0%0%
Truth bias (excluding confessions) 73.2%64.2%70.4%71.4%
Accuracy (excluding confessions) 72.2%67.5%70.4%70.1%
Demeanor (excluding confessions) 2.02 1.55 1.87 2.13
Note. None of the differences between question sets were statistically significant at p<.05. Demeanor scoring
could potentially range from 6toþ6, with 0 as the theoretical midpoint between a sincere and an insincere
self-presentation.
172 T. R. Levine et al.
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Finally, the analysis of the demeanor coding also failed to document any differ-
ences between question conditions, F(3, 89) ¼0.87, p¼.46 (g
2
¼.00). As with pre-
vious dependent measures, planned comparisons failed to yield any pairwise
differences. Cell means are summarized in Table 2.
Discussion
The results were surprising in the lack of statistically significant differences, but the
lack of differences is interesting and theoretically important. All four of the question
sets worked reasonably well producing accuracy results that were, even when adjusted
for base rate, about 10 points above the meta-analysis mean. In comparison to accu-
racy scores in the literature, these levels of accuracy (excluding confessions and
adjusted for base rate) fall in the 91st percentile of literature based on Bond and
DePaulo (2006). Nevertheless, none of the questioning styles appeared to offer a
decisive advantage over the others, although accuracy in the accusatory condition
was in the 99th percentile of meta-analysis results.
The questioning strategies do, however, appear to provide a difference in decep-
tion deterrence. Although not statistically significant, the differences in confession
rate were dramatic, with false evidence (80%) four times more likely to produce a
confession than non-accusatory questioning (20%). Because all confessions in this
study were honest, and because confessions are almost always believed (our results,
as well as Levine, Kim, & Blair, 2010), confessions provided a reliable path to
the truth.
Although confession results may produce important practical implications, the
believability and demeanor results have theoretical implications. The BAE and
IDT predicted that questioning strategies that imply suspicion would be associated
with a more honest demeanor and an increase in the number of judges who
believed the sender’s denials. In contrast, Vrij et al., (2007) reported that senders
subjected to accusations tended to look guilty in the eyes of observers. Our results,
however, were in line with Levine and McCornack (1996a, 1996b, 2001), who also
failed to find an effect for probe valence on believability. Thus, our findings are
inconsistent with BAE and IDT predictions, and fail to replicate Vrij et al.’s
findings.
A final interesting non-finding is that no false confessions were obtained. Given
that it is possible to produce false confessions in the laboratory, it may be informative
to consider how this study differed from studies in which false confessions are reliably
obtained. For whatever reason, it is clear that the mere use of false evidence did not
create false confessions in this research.
In conclusion, it appears from the research to date that under some still not fully
understood circumstances, the right questions can considerably improve accuracy
but, on other occasions, questioning strategy makes little difference or can even
backfire. Therefore, although question effect research holds much potential, the
theoretical and empirical challenge of identifying the unknown moderators of
question-instigated processes in deception detection remains a challenge.
Communication Research Reports 173
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