Head of The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context
Vol. 3. Num. 1. - 2011. Pages

Magistrates' beliefs concerning verbal and non-verbal behaviours as indicators of deception

[Magistrates' beliefs concerning verbal and non-verbal behaviours as indicators of deception]

Andrew Brownsell and Ray Bull


This study examined 105 magistrates’ beliefs about verbal and non-verbal behaviours as indicators of deception/truth-telling and whether their amount of courtroom experience was associated with their beliefs. Previous surveys (none have been on magistrates) suggest that people tend to associate others’ deception with changes in a number of verbal and non-verbal behaviours (that research on actual lying has found not to be valid cues). Overall, the magistrates’ beliefs were not similar to those found in previous surveys; for the majority of behaviours tested, the magisterial sample did not consensually consider that these were indicative of deception/truth-telling. Magisterial experience was related to only six of the 61 survey items, with less experienced magistrates tending to believe that four of the behaviours were possible indicators of deception. Given that the majority of magistrates did not share the common false beliefs found in other studies, the main implication of the present study is that they may well be less likely to incorrectly discriminate between witnesses/defendants who are telling the truth and those who are lying.


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