Truth or Dare

Kevin Lewis

February 13, 2011

The evolution and psychology of self-deception

William von Hippel & Robert Trivers
Behavioral and Brain Sciences, February 2011, Pages 1-16

In this article we argue that self-deception evolved to facilitate interpersonal deception by allowing people to avoid the cues to conscious deception that might reveal deceptive intent. Self-deception has two additional advantages: It eliminates the costly cognitive load that is typically associated with deceiving, and it can minimize retribution if the deception is discovered. Beyond its role in specific acts of deception, self-deceptive self-enhancement also allows people to display more confidence than is warranted, which has a host of social advantages. The question then arises of how the self can be both deceiver and deceived. We propose that this is achieved through dissociations of mental processes, including conscious versus unconscious memories, conscious versus unconscious attitudes, and automatic versus controlled processes. Given the variety of methods for deceiving others, it should come as no surprise that self-deception manifests itself in a number of different psychological processes, and we discuss various types of self-deception. We then discuss the interpersonal versus intrapersonal nature of self-deception before considering the levels of consciousness at which the self can be deceived. Finally, we contrast our evolutionary approach to self-deception with current theories and debates in psychology and consider some of the costs associated with self-deception.


Ideological Media Bias

Daniel Stone
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

I develop a model of the market for news in which consumers and reporters both ideologically misinterpret information and have biased beliefs about the extent to which others misinterpret information. I show that for some parameter values, in equilibrium: i) a monopolist media outlet hires a politically moderate reporter but duopolist outlets use relatively extreme, differentiated reporters; ii) in duopoly, consumers think of their preferred outlet's news reporter as relatively unbiased and the other outlet's reporter as biased; iii) consumers, in the aggregate, may be less informed in duopoly than monopoly, despite more consumers receiving news in duopoly.


Threat and selective exposure: The moderating role of threat and decision context on confirmatory information search after decisions

Peter Fischer et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, February 2011, Pages 51-62

Previous studies on the impact of perceived threat on confirmatory information search (selective exposure) in the context of decision making have yielded mixed results. Some studies have suggested that confirmatory information search is reduced, yet others have found contradictory effects. The present series of 5 studies consistently found that the crucial moderator for these inconsistent findings was whether the induced threat was contextually related to the subsequent decision and information search tasks. Contextual incongruence (e.g., an induction of terrorist threat followed by an economic decision case) results in reduced levels of confirmatory information search, whereas a congruent threat (e.g., an induction of terrorist threat followed by a decision case on terrorism) results in increased levels of confirmatory information search. Analyses of the underlying psychological processes revealed that decision-unrelated threat inductions increase decision makers' experienced decision uncertainty, thus reducing confirmatory information search.


From Incivility to Outrage: Political Discourse in Blogs, Talk Radio, and Cable News

Sarah Sobieraj & Jeffrey Berry
Political Communication, January 2011, Pages 19-41

Most research on incivility in American politics focuses on its effects on citizens' political attitudes and behaviors, in spite of remarkably little data on the extent to which political discourse is actually uncivil. Those studies that do examine content focus on negative campaign advertisements, overlooking more egregious forms of political incivility that penetrate the broader media landscape. In this study, we attempt to conceptualize and measure more dramatic types of political incivility, which we term "outrage." Outrage discourse involves efforts to provoke a visceral response from the audience, usually in the form of anger, fear, or moral righteousness through the use of overgeneralizations, sensationalism, misleading or patently inaccurate information, ad hominem attacks, and partial truths about opponents. Scrutinizing 10 weeks of data from political blogs, talk radio, and cable news analysis programs, we demonstrate that outrage discourse is extensive, takes many different forms (we examine 13 different types), and spans media formats. We also show that while outrage tactics are largely the same for liberal and conservative media, conservative media use significantly more outrage speech than liberal media. It is our hope that introducing more concrete information about the actual content of political media will render existing research on potential effects more meaningful.


Quoting Practices, Path Dependency and the Birth of Modern Journalism

David Ryfe & Markus Kemmelmeier
Journalism Studies, February 2011, Pages 10-26

Using Hallin's (1994) analysis of soundbites in network television news coverage as a model, we track the quoting practices of five American newspapers during the transition to modern news (1876-1916). We find that despite variation in the size, geographic location, and partisan orientation of these newspapers, trends in their quoting practices moved in relative lockstep. Drawing on the institutionalist concept of path dependency, we argue that these patterns are not consistent with an economic explanation of the transition to modern news. Rather, we suggest that political change - specifically, the breakdown of the third party system in 1896, served as a "critical juncture" in the transition to modern news. Overall, we argue that detailed analysis of newsgathering practices coupled with an institutional approach may allow historians to trace the timing, sequence and explanation of historical change in journalism in finer detail.


Dishonest Deed, Clear Conscience: When Cheating Leads to Moral Disengagement and Motivated Forgetting

Lisa Shu, Francesca Gino & Max Bazerman
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, March 2011, Pages 330-349

People routinely engage in dishonest acts without feeling guilty about their behavior. When and why does this occur? Across four studies, people justified their dishonest deeds through moral disengagement and exhibited motivated forgetting of information that might otherwise limit their dishonesty. Using hypothetical scenarios (Studies 1 and 2) and real tasks involving the opportunity to cheat (Studies 3 and 4), the authors find that one's own dishonest behavior increased moral disengagement and motivated forgetting of moral rules. Such changes did not occur in the case of honest behavior or consideration of the dishonest behavior of others. In addition, increasing moral saliency by having participants read or sign an honor code significantly reduced unethical behavior and prevented subsequent moral disengagement. Although dishonest behavior motivated moral leniency and led to forgetting of moral rules, honest behavior motivated moral stringency and diligent recollection of moral rules.


Thermal Imaging as a Lie Detection Tool at Airports

Lara Warmelink et al.
Law and Human Behavior, February 2011, Pages 40-48

We tested the accuracy of thermal imaging as a lie detection tool in airport screening. Fifty-one passengers in an international airport departure hall told the truth or lied about their forthcoming trip in an interview. Their skin temperature was recorded via a thermal imaging camera. Liars' skin temperature rose significantly during the interview, whereas truth tellers' skin temperature remained constant. On the basis of these different patterns, 64% of truth tellers and 69% of liars were classified correctly. The interviewers made veracity judgements independently from the thermal recordings. The interviewers outperformed the thermal recordings and classified 72% of truth tellers and 77% of liars correctly. Accuracy rates based on the combination of thermal imaging scores and interviewers' judgements were the same as accuracy rates based on interviewers' judgements alone. Implications of the findings for the suitability of thermal imaging as a lie detection tool in airports are discussed.


Moral Credentialing and the Rationalization of Misconduct

Ryan Brown et al.
Ethics & Behavior, January 2011, Pages 1-12

Recent studies lead to the paradoxical conclusion that the act of affirming one's egalitarian or prosocial values and virtues might subsequently facilitate prejudiced or self-serving behavior, an effect previously referred to as "moral credentialing." The present study extends this paradox to the domain of academic misconduct and investigates the hypothesis that such an effect might be limited by the extent to which misbehavior is rationalizable. Using a paradigm designed to investigate deliberative and rationalized forms of cheating (von Hippel, Lakin, & Shakarchi, 2005), we found that when participants had credentialed themselves (vs. a nonclose acquaintance) via a set of hypothetical moral dilemmas, they were more likely to cheat on a subsequent math task, but only if cheating was highly rationalizable. When cheating was difficult to rationalize, moral credentialing had almost no impact on cheating.


Scriptedness and Televised Sports: Violent Consumption and Viewer Enjoyment

David Westerman & Ron Tamborini
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, September 2010, Pages 321-337

Extending Raney and Depalma's research, this study examined effects of sport production on sport consumption. An experimental design crossed scripted (vs. unscripted) sport with violence (vs. nonviolence) to investigate the effects of both variables on violent outcomes and enjoyment. After viewing one of four clips, participants responded to three incomplete story stems, and responses were coded to measure hostile expectancy bias as a form of violent outcome. Participants also responded to their enjoyment of the clip they consumed. Analyses showed a main effect that consuming sport violence increased participants' hostile expectancy bias. However, a significant interaction showed that scriptedness moderated this effect, such that violence increased hostile expectancy bias only in the scripted condition. Enjoyment was also affected by scriptedness and violence, as violent nonscripted sports were enjoyed more than all other conditions. Results suggest that violence in sports may be interpreted differently based on the scriptedness of the sport and may be processed differently than violence in other forms of entertainment. Implications of these findings are discussed, as are limitations and future directions for study.


Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Ted Kaptchuk et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2010, e15591

Background: Placebo treatment can significantly influence subjective symptoms. However, it is widely believed that response to placebo requires concealment or deception. We tested whether open-label placebo (non-deceptive and non-concealed administration) is superior to a no-treatment control with matched patient-provider interactions in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Methods: Two-group, randomized, controlled three week trial (August 2009-April 2010) conducted at a single academic center, involving 80 primarily female (70%) patients, mean age 47±18 with IBS diagnosed by Rome III criteria and with a score ≥150 on the IBS Symptom Severity Scale (IBS-SSS). Patients were randomized to either open-label placebo pills presented as "placebo pills made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes" or no-treatment controls with the same quality of interaction with providers. The primary outcome was IBS Global Improvement Scale (IBS-GIS). Secondary measures were IBS Symptom Severity Scale (IBS-SSS), IBS Adequate Relief (IBS-AR) and IBS Quality of Life (IBS-QoL).

Findings: Open-label placebo produced significantly higher mean (±SD) global improvement scores (IBS-GIS) at both 11-day midpoint (5.2±1.0 vs. 4. 0±1.1, p<.001) and at 21-day endpoint (5.0±1.5 vs. 3.9±1.3, p = .002). Significant results were also observed at both time points for reduced symptom severity (IBS-SSS, p = .008 and p = .03) and adequate relief (IBS-AR, p = .02 and p = .03); and a trend favoring open-label placebo was observed for quality of life (IBS-QoL) at the 21-day endpoint (p = .08). Conclusion: Placebos administered without deception may be an effective treatment for IBS. Further research is warranted in IBS, and perhaps other conditions, to elucidate whether physicians can benefit patients using placebos consistent with informed consent.


Does Fast or Slow Evaluation Foster Greater Certainty?

Zakary Tormala, Joshua Clarkson & Marlone Henderson
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, March 2011, Pages 422-434

This research investigates the effect of perceived evaluation duration-that is, the perceived time or speed with which one generates an evaluation-on attitude certainty. Integrating diverse findings from past research, the authors propose that perceiving either fast or slow evaluation can augment attitude certainty depending on specifiable factors. Across three studies, it is shown that when people express opinions, evaluate familiar objects, or typically trust their gut reactions, perceiving fast rather than slow evaluation generally promotes greater certainty. In contrast, when people form opinions, evaluate unfamiliar objects, or typically trust more thoughtful responses, perceiving slow rather than fast evaluation generally promotes greater certainty. Mediation analyses reveal that these effects stem from trade-offs between perceived rational thought and the perceived ease of retrieving an attitude. Implications for research on deliberative versus intuitive decision making are discussed.


Going to the other extreme: Counterfactual thinking leads to polarized judgements

Karl Halvor Teigen, Alf Brre Kanten & Jens Andreas Terum
Thinking & Reasoning, February 2011, Pages 1-29

Counterfactual thinking is often assumed to depend on closeness between what is and what might have been, following a principle of minimal mutations of reality. Yet when people are asked to describe autobiographical incidents that "might" have been different, they typically report situations that could have had opposite rather than just different outcomes (Experiment 1). In four subsequent studies participants were presented with vignettes of critical situations that take a turn for the better or the worse. Consequences of counterfactual events were consistently evaluated as more extreme than outcomes of identical, factual events (Experiment 2 and 3), and estimated probabilities of success were higher for positive events that did not occur than when they occurred (Experiment 4). Also, the probabilities of accident victims to be seriously injured were higher in the counterfactual case (Experiment 5). Thus, speculations about what would have happened, if ... seem to induce more schematic thinking and perhaps a higher level of construal than predictions of what will happen.


Negative emotions can attenuate the influence of beliefs on logical reasoning

Vinod Goel & Oshin Vartanian
Cognition & Emotion, January 2011, Pages 121-131

Although the influence of beliefs on logical reasoning is well documented, how emotions modulate the effect of beliefs during reasoning remains unexamined. We instructed participants to reason about syllogisms involving neutral or emotionally charged content. We also manipulated the consistency of beliefs with logical validity. When content was neutral, participants exhibited the belief-bias effect observed in previous studies of reasoning. In contrast, when confronted with emotionally charged content participants were less likely to be influenced by their beliefs. Our results suggest that under certain conditions negative emotions can attenuate the influence of beliefs during logical reasoning. Drawing on the affect infusion model, we attribute this effect to a more vigilant, systematic scrutiny of beliefs in the presence of negative emotions.


On Being Angry and Punitive: How Anger Alters Perception of Criminal Intent

Karl Ask & Afroditi Pina
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Previous research has demonstrated that anger increases the tendency to blame and punish others for harmful behaviors. This study investigated whether such attributions extend to judgments of criminal intent, and it examined the mechanisms by which anger influences punitiveness. In an experiment, angry, sad, and neutral participants read about an ambiguously criminal behavior. As hypothesized, angry participants judged the behavior as being more intentional and the perpetrator as having more causal control than did neutral participants, and they were more willing to punish the wrongdoer. Sadness did not have a demonstrable effect on judgments, indicating a specific role of anger rather than a general negative affect. Moreover, the effect of anger on punitiveness was mediated by perceived criminal intent but not by perceived causal control. Implications for legal judgments and theories of blame attribution are discussed.


Suspect Interviews and False Confessions

Gisli Gudjonsson & John Pearse
Current Directions in Psychological Science, February 2011, Pages 33-37

In this article, we review two influential methods of police interviewing practice and their associations with false confessions. These are the Reid technique, which is commonly used by police forces in the United States, and the PEACE model, which is routinely used in the United Kingdom. Several authors have recently expressed concerns about the guilt-presumptive and confrontational aspects of the Reid technique and its association with false confessions and recommend that it be replaced by the PEACE model. Anecdotal case studies and DNA exonerations have shown that false confessions are more common than previously thought and are typically associated with two main causes: manipulative/coercive interrogation techniques and suspects' vulnerabilities in interviews. The main challenge for the future is to develop interview techniques that maximize the number of noncoerced true confessions while minimizing the rate of false confessions. In the meantime, the electronic recording of police interviews, which provides invaluable transparency and accountability, is the single best protection against police-induced false confessions.


Judging intoxication

Steve Rubenzer
Behavioral Sciences & the Law, January/February 2011, Pages 116-137

Judgments of whether a person is intoxicated by alcohol are important in a number of civil and law enforcement settings. This paper reviews how well people are able to make such judgments, the evidence for individual signs of intoxication, several structured rating techniques, and the use of sobriety tests. It is concluded that observers relying on common-sense clues of intoxication have limited ability to assess the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of strangers, particularly below .10%. This generalization holds across professions that might be expected to show greater accuracy. Structured assessment instruments based on observable signs have shown promise but are confounded by the wide variations between casual social drinkers and those that have obtained a high level of tolerance. Among sobriety tests, only NHTSA's Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) have substantial, but seriously flawed, research support. Assessing the sobriety of strangers in the low to moderate BAC ranges without resort to chemical tests remains a daunting task.


Paranormal Encounters as Eyewitness Phenomena: Psychological Determinants of Atypical Perceptual Interpretations

Matthew Sharps et al.
Current Psychology, December 2010, Pages 320-327

Many people who report paranormal sightings (e.g., Bigfoot and UFO aliens) are apparently sincere. This places many such sightings in the category of eyewitness errors, rather than of deliberate deception. Recent research has supported this idea; in an earlier paper, we demonstrated that paranormal beliefs are facilitated by tendencies toward attention deficit hyperactive disorder, dissociation, and depression. These characteristics predicted specific patterns of beliefs in several paranormal phenomena. The present research addressed the question of whether such psychological tendencies would tend to create bias in perception and interpretation as well as whether a person's identification of a given stimulus as paranormal in nature would be influenced by the same factors previously demonstrated to influence paranormal beliefs. This hypothesis was supported. Specifically, those with dissociative tendencies were significantly more likely to identify given stimulus items as paranormal in nature than were those with lower dissociation scores. Dissociation was further shown to be related to paranormal beliefs, consistent with earlier findings. Results are discussed in terms of the reconfigurative dynamics known to operate in areas of human cognition such as eyewitness identification, and in terms of the generality of those effects to the realm of paranormal sightings.


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