Stereotype Threat and Deception: Testing Contexts that May Reduce the Effectiveness of an Imposed-Cognitive-Load Approach
Authors:Elise Fenn, Aspen Yoo
Mentor:Iris Blandon-Gitlin, Associate Professor of Psychology, California State University, Fullerton
People are only slightly better than chance at detecting deception in strangers (i.e., 54%). A new interview protocol, the Imposed-Cognitive-Load Approach (ICLA), is designed to improve accuracy rates by increasing mental effort, or cognitive load, in liars only, amplifying behavioral differences between truth-tellers and liars. While there is empirical support for this approach, situation-specific factors may reduce its feasibility; individuals who are already cognitively loaded may appear deceptive regardless of their actual veracities. We hypothesized that interviewee’s experience of stereotype threat, which is cognitively and emotionally demanding, would reduce lie detection accuracy during an ICLA interview. Stereotype threat is a stigmatized individual’s overwhelming concern over confirming a negative stereotype (e.g., Hispanics as criminals). In Experiment 1, White and Hispanic participants were sanctioned as “guilty” or “innocent” of a mock crime. All were accused of the crime, were told to appear truthful, and proceeded to a video-recorded ICLA interview with a White or Hispanic interviewer. Various measures of cognitive load, stereotype threat and physiological arousal were collected. In Experiment 2, third party observers watched the recordings of each interview and assessed who was lying or telling the truth. Results show that in the White-Interviewer, but not Hispanic-Interviewer condition, White liars experienced greater cognitive load and anxiety than White truth-tellers, but Hispanic liars and truth-tellers experienced similarly high levels of cognitive load and anxiety and showed significant signs of stereotype threat. Additionally, while observers were not able to significantly discriminate between Hispanic truth-tellers and liars in the White-Interviewer condition, they were able to in all other conditions. These results suggest that Hispanic truth-tellers interviewed by Whites behaved and appeared more like liars because of heightened levels of stereotype threat and cognitive demands, suggesting they may be at risk of being misclassified when an ICLA interview is used.