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Forensic psychologist Bruno Verschuere and his colleagues at the UvA conduct a lot of research on the phenomenon of lying. When and why do people lie, how do you recognise lies and how do you detect lies? Along with cartoonist Jan Cleijne, they create ‘Science Comics’ to share their research.

Science Comic The truth about dishonesty
© Jan Cleijne/FMG

Do we lie out of self-interest?

‘The Truth About Dishonesty’ is about a famous dice experiment from 2012, which generated totally different results when it was repeated in 2019.

The 2012 dice experiment tested whether we lie under pressure if doing so benefits us. As the stopwatch is running, do we honestly report what we rolled with the dice or do we lie if it means that we can win more? According to the experiment, as soon as we started operating from our intuition, we would selfishly lie and cheat.

Verschuere and colleagues repeated this experiment many times in 2019 and arrived at an entirely different conclusion. The majority of people proved to be honest, including when they were put under pressure. 

Science Comic about reading the criminal mind
© Jan Cleijne/FMG

Can you catch criminals in a lie?

‘Reading the Criminal Mind’ presents UvA forensic psychologist Linda Geven's doctoral research on memory detection.

Just as with lie detection, memory detection involves measuring subjects’ physiological reactions, such as changes in heart rate and breathing or sweaty palms. However, subjects are not asked directly about their involvement in a crime but about details concerning the crime.  For example, in case of a murder, was someone stabbed, strangled or poisoned? The subject is presented with all of these options as the physiological reactions are simultaneously measured. Because only a perpetrator can recognise actual details and react accordingly, this process provides information for the police investigation and can be seen as the first piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

Science Comics to reach a wide audience

While Verschuere and colleagues write academic articles about the results of their work, they also want to use these science comics in order to share their knowledge with a wider audience. They recruited cartoonist Jan Cleijne to help their cause.

'I am thrilled that these comics are being so well received. What has stuck with me the most from the responses is that people see it as a medium to reach a large audience, which is perhaps especially an audience that would otherwise be harder to reach’, Verschuere said.

The comics are sponsored by the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, which is also committed to the broad and accessible dissemination of science and knowledge.