Exoneration or observation? Examining a novel difference between liars and truth tellers

Peter F Molinaro, Florida International University


Individual cues to deception are subtle and often missed by lay people and law enforcement alike. Linguistic statement analysis remains a potentially useful way of overcoming individual diagnostic limitations (e.g. Criteria based Content Analysis; Steller & Köhnken, 1989; Reality monitoring; Johnson & Raye, 1981; Scientific Content Analysis; Sapir, 1996). Unfortunately many of these procedures are time-consuming, require in-depth training, as well as lack empirical support and/or external validity. The current dissertation develops a novel approach to statement veracity analysis that is simple to learn, easy to administer, theoretically sound, and empirically validated. Two strategies were proposed for detecting differences between liars' and truth-tellers' statements. Liars were hypothesized to strategically write statements with the goal of self-exoneration. Liars' statements were predicted to contain more first person pronouns and fewer third person pronouns. Truth-tellers were hypothesized to be motivated toward being informative and thus produce statements with fewer first person pronouns and more third person pronouns. Three studies were conducted to test this hypothesis. The first study explored the verbal patterns of exoneration and informativeness focused statements. The second study used a traditional theft paradigm to examine these verbal patterns in guilty liars and innocent truth tellers. In the third study to better match the context of a criminal investigation a cheating paradigm was used in which spontaneous lying was induced and written statements were taken. Support for the first person pronoun hypothesis was found. Limited support was found for the third person pronoun hypothesis. Results, implications, and future directions for the current research are discussed.

Subject Area

Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Molinaro, Peter F, "Exoneration or observation? Examining a novel difference between liars and truth tellers" (2015). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3721526.