Cues to deception in a textual narrative context: lying in written witness statements

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

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Isabel Picornell


Little research has been undertaken into high stakes deception, and even less into high stakes deception in written text. This study addresses that gap. In this thesis, I present a new approach to detecting deception in written narratives based on the definition of deception as a progression and focusing on identifying deceptive linguistic strategy rather than individual cues. I propose a new approach for subdividing whole narratives into their constituent episodes, each of which is linguistically profiled and their progression mapped to identify authors’ deceptive strategies based on cue interaction. I conduct a double blind study using qualitative and quantitative analysis in which linguistic strategy (cue interaction and progression) and overall cue presence are used to predict deception in witness statements. This results in linguistic strategy analysis correctly predicting 85% of deceptive statements (92% overall) compared to 54% (64% overall) with cues identified on a whole statement basis. These results suggest that deception cues are not static, and that the value of individual cues as deception predictors is linked to their interaction with other cues. Results also indicate that in certain cue combinations, individual self-references (I, Me and My), previously believed to be indicators of truthfulness, are effective predictors of deceptive linguistic strategy at work


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2013


  • linguistic cues, deception strategy, episodes, cue progression, temporal lacunae

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