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The use-the-best heuristic facilitates deception detection

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Decades of research have shown that people are poor at detecting deception. Understandably, people struggle with integrating the many putative cues to deception into an accurate veracity judgement. Heuristics simplify difficult decisions by ignoring most of the information and relying instead only on the most diagnostic cues. Here we conducted nine studies in which people evaluated honest and deceptive handwritten statements, video transcripts, videotaped interviews or live interviews. Participants performed at the chance level when they made intuitive judgements, free to use any possible cue. But when instructed to rely only on the best available cue (detailedness), they were consistently able to discriminate lies from truths. Our findings challenge the notion that people lack the potential to detect deception. The simplicity and accuracy of the use-the-best heuristic provides a promising new avenue for deception research.

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Fig. 1: Relying on one good cue allows to tell lie from truth.
Fig. 2: The use-the-best heuristic critically depends on cue diagnosticity.

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Change history

  • 20 April 2023

    In the version of this article initially published online, there were typos in the bottom row, third and fourth columns of “Studies 8 and 9” where in the curernt “66.41% (Study 9)” and “59.14 (Study 9),” “Study 8” twice appeared; the HTML and PDF versions of the article are now updated.


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We thank A. El Feddali and V. Giannelli for their help with the Pilot Study, E. Wevers, R. Louterse and J. Wong for their help with Study 6, A. Lob for his help with Study 7 and Study 9, N. Jebriel and N. Roijakkers for their help with Study 8 and M. Vestjens and S. Wiechert for their help with Study 9. E.M. is supported by the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the paper.

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Authors and Affiliations



B.V. and E.M. conceptualized the study. C.-C.L., S.H., M.W., L.L., T.v.G., E.C., O.K.A., E.M. and B.V. were responsible for the methodology. C.-C.L., S.H., M.W., L.L., T.v.G., E.C. and O.K.A. were responsible for the investigation. B.V. and B.K. conducted the statistical analyses. B.V. and E.M. wrote the original draft. B.V., E.M. and B.K. reviewed and edited the paper.

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Correspondence to Bruno Verschuere.

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Supplementary Analyses, Methods, Figs. 1–6 and Table 1.

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Verschuere, B., Lin, CC., Huismann, S. et al. The use-the-best heuristic facilitates deception detection. Nat Hum Behav 7, 718–728 (2023).

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