Cross-cultural verbal deception

Sharon Leal, Aldert Vrij, Zarah Vernham, Gary Dalton, Louise Jupe, Adam Harvey, Galit Nahari

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Background - ‘Interviewing to detect deception’ research is sparse across different Ethnic Groups. In the present experiment, we interviewed truth tellers and liars from British, Chinese, and Arab origins. British interviewees belong to a low‐context culture (using a communication style that relies heavily on explicit and direct language), whereas Chinese and Arab interviewees belong to high‐context cultures (communicate in ways that are implicit and rely heavily on context).

Method - Interviewees were interviewed in pairs and 153 pairs took part. Truthful pairs discussed an actual visit to a nearby restaurant, whereas deceptive pairs pretended to have visited a nearby restaurant. Seventeen verbal cues were examined.

Results - Cultural cues (differences between cultures) were more prominent than cues to deceit (differences between truth tellers and liars). In particular, the British interviewees differed from their Chinese and Arab counterparts and the differences reflected low‐ and high‐context culture communication styles.

Conclusion - Cultural cues could quickly lead to cross‐cultural verbal communication errors: the incorrect interpretation of a cultural difference as a cue to deceit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-213
JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • RCUK
  • ESRC
  • ES/N009614/1


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