Language and Worldview in the Processing of Lies

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  • This thesis examined if the credibility of a speaker affects the hearer's processing of false (lies) vs true statements. Within the context of this thesis, credibility was established using a preliminary ratings task which asked participants to respond to the following statements: ‘I believe what this person says’, ‘This person has integrity’ and ‘This person is honest’. From this, we categorized our list of characters into trustworthy and untrustworthy. Lying is a complex cognitive process which is more mentally taxing than truth telling (e.g., induces less hand and arm movements, reduced blinking and more pauses during speech, Debey et al., 2012; Duñabeitia & Costa, 2015; Lelieveld et al., 2016). At the same time, lying is a socially relevant skill, and in some social contexts, white lies can be easier to process than blunt truths (Moreno et al., 2016). Also, habit and empathy have been found to lower the cognitive cost associated with producing lies (Verschuere et al., 2011; Yin et al., 2017). Subsequently, in a series of two experiments; a ratings task and self-paced reading experiment, we asked; 1) if participants personally agreed with and found true vs untrue statements acceptable and if those outcomes were influenced by the speaker; 2) if there was a processing cost for true vs untrue statements and if so, was this cost influenced by the speaker; and 3) the extent to which the comprehender’s individual political ideology and personal beliefs influenced the processing and outcomes (social acceptability and personal opinions) of these statements? Among proficient speakers of English who are resident in Canada, the findings from both experiments suggest that the identity of the person who gives truthful information affects the processing of those statements more than the speaker of false information. In addition, we found that perspective taking and personal distress and political views (right-wing) influence the processing of lies vs. truths. Higher scores perspective taking and lower scores personal distress led to faster reading times for true statements spoken by an untrustworthy speaker. Higher scores on the right-wing scale led to faster reading times in general. In addition, there was an interaction suggesting that this effect was stronger for false statements and less pronounced for true statements spoken by untrustworthy speakers; and vice versa for trustworthy speakers.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International