Science has shown that humans are bad at detecting lies on an individual basis. However, if one man can’t do the job, a team might bring fruitful results. A new study demonstrates how groups of people are significantly better at spotting lies than individuals are. The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
The researchers of the new study, doctoral student Nadav Klein, and Professor Nicholas Epley, both from the University of Chicago, carried out a series of experiments to determine the degree of success at which people in groups and as individuals could identify lies.
One experiment involved watching video recordings of people who either told the truth or lied about their best vacations. Some participants worked in groups of three, while others worked alone. They had to figure out whether the people featured in the videos were lying or not. The researchers deemed the lies in this experiment to be white lies.
Another experiment entailed video clips from a game show where people were trying to convince their partners that they would split some amount of money when some of them only intended to steal all of it. The lies said here were considered to be high-stake ones because of the great financial risk involved.
The results showed that groups were 8 % better at detecting lies than individuals for the white-lies experiment. For the high-stake ones, groups were 4 % more accurate. In short, groups are better than individuals in spotting both white lies and high-stake lies.
Why are groups more successful? It seems that the discussion they have before they reach a certain consensus helps to identify the lies; their individual accuracy increases in this manner.
Nadav Klein says that their research has important implications.
“All the money that’s spent on training individuals to be better lie detectors might be better spent just getting untrained individuals to do it in groups. It’s a potentially inexpensive way of increasing lie detection.”