Thermal imaging data capturing fingertip temperatures during observations of lies vs. true stories



People tend to be bad at explicitly detecting lies. However, indirect veracity judgments and physiological responses may yield above-chance levels of accuracy in differentiating lies from the truth. If lies induce a threat response, vasoconstriction should reduce peripheral cutaneous blood flow, leading to finger temperature drops when confronted with a lie compared to the truth. Participants (N = 95) observed people telling lies or the truth about their social relationships, during which participants’ fingertip temperature was recorded via infrared thermal imaging. Results suggested that the accuracy of explicit veracity categorizations remained at chance levels. Judgments of story-tellers’ likability and trustworthiness as indirect veracity measures, as well as observers’ fingertip temperatures as a physiological veracity measure significantly differed between lies and true stories. However, the effects pointed in the opposite direction of our expectations: participants liked liars better than truth-tellers and trusted liars more; and fingertip temperatures increased while confronted with lies compared to true stories. We discuss that studying observers’ physiological responses may be a useful window to lie detection, but requires future investigation.
Date made available16 Apr 2021

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