Detecting false intentions using unanticipated questions

Glynis Bogaard*, Joyce van der Mark, Ewout H. Meijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present study investigated whether measurable verbal differences occur when people vocalize their true and false intentions. To test potential differences, we used an experimental set-up where liars planned a criminal act (i.e., installing a virus on a network computer) and truth-tellers a non-criminal act (i.e., installing a new presentation program "SlideDog" on a network computer). Before they could carry out these acts, a confederate intercepted the participant and interviewed them about their intentions and the planning phase by using both anticipated and unanticipated questions. Liars used a cover story to mask their criminal intentions while truth-tellers told the entire truth. In contrast to our hypotheses, both human and automated coding did not show any evidence that liars and truth-tellers differed in plausibility or detailedness. Furthermore, results showed that asking unanticipated questions resulted in lengthier answers than anticipated questions. These results are in line with the mixed findings in the intention literature and suggest that plausibility and detailedness are less diagnostic cues for deception about intentions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0226257
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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