The effects of unexpected questions on detecting familiar and unfamiliar lies

Lara Warmelink, Aldert Vrij, Samantha Mann, Sharon Leal, F. Poletiek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research suggests that lie detection can be improved by asking the interviewee unexpected questions. The present experiment investigates the effect of two types of unexpected questions: background questions and detail questions, on detecting lies about topics with which the interviewee is (a) familiar or (b) unfamiliar. In this experiment, 66 participants read interviews in which interviewees answered background or detail questions, either truthfully or deceptively. Those who answered deceptively could be lying about a topic they were familiar with or about a topic they were unfamiliar with. The participants were asked to judge whether the interviewees were lying. The results revealed that background questions distinguished truths from both types of lies, while the detail questions distinguished truths from unfamiliar lies, but not from familiar lies. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-35
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number1
Early online date24 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


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