Lie to Me: Viewers Impact
Many of us watch the hit show Lie to Me on Fox every Monday evening. Thanks to the gaining popularity of the show, more and more people have developed an interest in the topic of microexpressions and the world of nonverbal behavior.
Recently researchers at Michigan State University led by professor of communication, Timothy Levine, are putting Lie to Me viewer’s deception skills to the test in a new study entitled “The impact of Lie to Me on viewers’ actual ability to detect deception”.
The study which was published in the Journal of Communication Research, finds watching Lie to Me “increases suspicion of others but that is reduces one’s ability to detect deception”, according to an article written by Tom Jacobs of Miller-McCune.
Levine and his colleagues experiment involved 108 undergraduates at the university. Thirty-three of these individuals watched an episode of Lie to Me, another thirty-five watched a different crime drama called Numb3rs while the last third of the group did not watch either program. The group that did not watch either show served as the control group.
After they watched various episodes (or none at all), the participants saw a series of 12 taped interviews where half were telling the truth and the other half lied consistently. The participants were instructed to state whether they believed the person in the interview was being honest or deceptive.
Interestingly, according to the article written by Jacobs, the control group was the most accurate, correctly identifying the person as honest or dishonest 65.2 percent of the time. The Numb3rs group came in second, at 61.7 percent, while the Lie to Me group came in last at 59.5 percent.
The results of this show illustrated that Lie to Me viewers were “no better at distinguishing truths from lies but were more likely than control participants to misidentify honest interviewees as deceptive. Watching Lie to Me decreases truth bias thereby increasing suspicion of others while at the same time reducing deception detection ability” according to the study’s abstract.
It seems a larger sample size may be necessary in the future and we would be interested in reading the complete study. However, the show suggests what we have been suggesting all along: that viewers of Lie to Me shouldn’t accept all information that is presented on the show as accurate or think they know more about lie detection without getting formal training.