Is the uncertain self good at detecting lies? The influence of personal uncertainty on deception detection

Marc-André Reinhard*, Sarah Volz, Kees van den Bos, Patrick A. Müller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Five experiments (total number of judging participants = 1309, four different kinds of stimulus materials with a total of 464 messages, total number of judgements = 19,634) investigated the influence of personal uncertainty on the process of lie detection in social relationships. Building on and extending basic assumptions of uncertainty management models, we reasoned that uncertainty about themselves motivates people to evaluate the quality of their relationships. A crucial aspect of the quality of relationships with other people is the truthfulness with which they communicate verbally with you and anyone else. We proposed that if these assumptions are valid, reminding people of their personal uncertainties should lead them to use valid verbal cues in veracity judgements more. This enhanced usage of valid verbal cues should result in better accuracy in deception detection. An internal meta-analysis of the five experiments reveals only a small, not significant, overall effect of uncertainty salience on detection accuracy with larger effect sizes for experiments conducted in the laboratory than for those conducted online. Hence, if personal uncertainty plays a role in the process of deception detection, it seems to be subject to moderators such as methodological or motivational factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-1003
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • judgementdetection of deception
  • lay judgement
  • lie detection
  • relationship quality
  • uncertainty
  • verbal communication


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