Can you spot a liar? Deception, mindreading, and the case of autism spectrum disorder


Williams D, Nicholson T, Grainger C, Lind S & Carruthers P (2018) Can you spot a liar? Deception, mindreading, and the case of autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 11 (8), pp. 1129-1137.

Detection of deception is of fundamental importance for everyday social life and might require "mindreading" (the ability to represent others' mental states). People with diminished mindreading, such as those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), might be at risk of manipulation because of lie detection difficulties. In Experiment 1, performance among 216 neurotypical adults on a realistic lie detection paradigm was significantly negatively associated with number of ASD traits, but not with mindreading ability. Bayesian analyses complemented null hypothesis significance testing and suggested the data supported the alternative hypothesis in this key respect. Cross validation of results was achieved by randomly splitting the full sample into two subsamples of 108 and rerunning analyses. The association between lie detection and ASD traits held in both subsamples, showing the reliability of findings. In Experiment 2, lie detection was significantly impaired in 27 adults with a diagnosis of ASD relative to 27 matched comparison participants. Results suggest that people with ASD (or ASD traits) may be particularly vulnerable to manipulation and may benefit from lie detection training.

autism spectrum disorder; deception; lie detection; metacognition; mindreading; social cognition; theory of mind

Autism Research: Volume 11, Issue 8

Publication date31/08/2018
Publication date online27/04/2018
Date accepted by journal11/04/2018