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Detecting Deception: Appying cognitive psychology learning in the real-world~ kinda


Today’s topics of interest is in the realm of Cognitive psychology and provides examples for a journal critique using the paper, Detecting Concealed Information about Person Recognition (Leal et al., 2011 [Abstract]).

Example of a Journal Critique in Cognitive Psychology

Literature Review

The reader is not given a critical analysis of current literature in this field to determine the gaps in current understanding or methods of deception investigation. As a result, it is not clear how the Leal and colleagues developed the hypothesis and research design used and, it could be, that they are ‘re-inventing the wheel’ or ignoring finding of previous experiments in this field.


Most people lie in daily life (Lying in Everyday Life). However,  can the military and police being asked to lie about details of a friend, be compared to the spontaneous lies of Resistance fighters in WW II who aim to save the lives of their comrades in arms? Or to that of criminals seeking to avoid arrest and or jail time?

Resistance fighters and criminals would have a lot of practice in lying, especially under pressure as it is required for thier survival.

Further, Leal et al. justified their choice of participants as those being, “better able to understand the practical significance of the research and therefore would be highly motivated” (p. 373). An alternative explanation for the results of the study could be that the experience of the officers lead them to mimic behaviours they believeed indicated deception,  thus providing socially desirable responses (demand characteristics).

Sampling for this type of study could be strengthened by recruiting actual criminals (or Resistance fighters)  such as in the study, Assessment Criteria Indicative of Deception (ACID): Replication and Gender Differences. Additionally, stratifying the sample by crime committed (e.g.,not paying parking fines vs. bank robbery) and length of time in jail could control for these confounding variables (e.g., 3 months vs. career criminal).

Stratification by gender would be important too I think, this study was skewed with regards to males (n = 28) with only three female participants. Lying does appear to be more socially acceptable for males and there is literature to support it being more prevelant amongst males (see Children’s Persistent Lying, Gender Differences and Disruptive Behaviours: A longitudinal perspective , Gender Differences in Deception, Nonverbal Deception Abilities and Adolescents’ Social Competence: Adolescents with higher social skills are better liars and Serious Lies).


Operationalisation of the dependant variable  “the appearance of having to think hard” was not adequate. For example, a list of cues to indicate a person as thinking hard and the reliability of such a DV was not provided. Nor waws there any indication that the two raters were trained as to what cues to look for. An inter-rater reliablity of . 56  is acknowledged by the resaerchers to not be high (see p. 374) and, depsite this being on par with other deception inter-rater reliability scores, does not give a reliable operationalisation of this variable.

Hence, it can be argued that measurement was not standardised and so not reliable or valid.


Rather than sending participants on a ‘Secret James Bond Mission’ it would have been better to design the study to provide real-world opportunities for lying. This would require some deception on the part of the researcher, which is not unusual in psychology experiements.


The analysis appears appropriate as multi-dependant variables were used, “occurance of gaze” and “appearance to think hard” that were interval levals of measurement. And the independant variable (IV) was correctly, a nominal level of measurement.


Althought the results were linked to other literature, most of it had not appeared in the literature review for this study. Further, no discussions about limitations of this study were provided. However, the researchers did make recommendations for future resarch and indicated the  usefulness of this study in the field of deception.

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