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A new theoretical perspective on deception detection: On the psychology of instrumental mind-reading

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To be able to assess the veracity of statements offered by suspects, witnesses and alleged victims is of paramount importance in legal settings. The aim of this paper is to provide an initial piece of scientific support for the idea that psychologically informed mind-reading can improve people's ability to detect deception. To this end, a theoretical framework is sketched; a framework resting upon psychological notions from three domains: (a) the psychology of mind-reading, (b) the psychology of self-regulation, and (c) the psychology of guilt and innocence. Importantly, the term mind-reading is used in an instrumental (vs descriptive) manner, where the goal is to improve the ability to predict a person's behaviour (not to read the content of a person's mind). It is argued that the mind-reading process can be facilitated by theoretical and empirical work pertaining to 'the psychology of guilt' and 'the psychology of innocence'. Using psychologically informed mind-reading, predictions of guilty and innocent suspects' behaviour are specified, and gauged against existing empirical work. Finally, a recently published training study is used to illustrate how the outcome of instrumental mind-reading can be translated into interview tactics, and ultimately improve interviewers' ability to detect deception.

Keywords: deception detection; interrogations; interviews; mind-reading

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Goteborg University, Goteborg, Sweden 2: Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2008


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