The influence of affective states on the process of lie detection

Lay theories about the tell tale signs of deception include numerous nonverbal cues; empirically, however, a focus on message content results in better lie detection than a focus on nonverbal elements. Feelings-as-information theory (Schwarz, 1990, 2012) predicts that systematic processing of message content is more likely under sad than happy moods, whereas reliance on salient cues is more likely under happy than sad moods. If so, perceivers who are asked to evaluate the veracity of a message should (a) attend more to message content when they are in a negative mood, but (b) more to nonverbal cues when they are in a positive mood. This should (c) result in more accurate identification of true as well as false messages under sad mood, mediated by (d) mood-induced differences in processing style. Three experiments tested these predictions. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants in a negative mood achieved higher accuracy in classifying truthful as well as deceptive messages than participants in a positive mood. Experiment 3 crossed nonverbal cues (fidgety vs. calm movements) and message characteristics (low vs. high plausibility). Only the plausibility of the message influenced participants' credibility judgments under sad mood conditions, whereas only the nonverbal cues influenced participants' judgments of credibility under happy mood conditions. Implications for lie detection and the interplay of feeling and thinking are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)