Eliciting veracity differences through a general memory recall test

Aldert Vrij, Sharon Leal, Haneen Deeb, Ronald P. Fisher

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A preferred strategy amongst lie tellers is to keep their stories simple. In the present experiment we examined a possible way lie tellers could use to achieve this: Pretending to have a general poor memory. We gave participants the opportunity to reveal this poor memory in a general memory recall test. Participants first saw a video-recorded secret meeting and were led to believe that they would be interviewed about this video. Participants were instructed to recall it either truthfully [truth tellers] or deliberately distort some facts [lie tellers] and were given time to prepare themselves for the forthcoming interview. In the interview we showed participants a video [labelled tricks video] to test their general memory. We asked them to report this tricks video in as much detail and as accurately as possible. We finished the interview after this recall and never asked them to recall the secret meeting video. Half of the participants were asked to sketch while recalling the tricks video. Sketching is known to facilitate recall. As predicted, those who thought they had to lie about the secret meeting video performed worse in recalling the tricks video than those who thought they had to tell the truth about the secret meeting video, particularly in the sketching condition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-187
JournalInternational Journal of Forensic Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2023


  • Deception
  • Self-handicapping strategies
  • Memory recall test
  • Strategies to appear convincing
  • Dividing attention

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