However, the administering of even these scientifically-based tests has come under increasing fire. For example, polygraph results were barred from the trial of a U.S. trial of a federal judge as recently as December of 2008 (Assoicated Press, 2008). If such a scientifically-based device has come under such scrutiny and has been routinely barred from legal proceedings, it begs the question of whether an unaided human can detect deception merely by observing the subject.
In their 1996 study, Vrij and Semin examined this question by recruiting not only college students, but also subjects from a variety of fields thought to be trained and experienced in lie detection (police patrol officers, prison guards, customs officials, etc.) as well as those constantly exposed to an environment based on lies and deception (prisoners). It was their hypothesis that law enforcement officials would be better at lie detection than "normal people" such as college students and that the criminals would have superior abilities to those of law enforcement. All of the subjects reported that they considered themselves highly experienced at detecting deception (Vrij & Semin, 1996).
Vrij and Semin administered their study through a series of questionnaires administered at the subjects' places or work or incarceration. These questionnaires contained questions ranging over 16 nonverbal cues commonly associated with deception and concluded with the subjects rating themselves on their ability to detect deception in others on a 7-point scale. The results were compiled by group (college student, law enforcement, or criminal) and then analysed for accuracy. As predicted, the criminals exhibited the greatest level of accuracy in correctly identifying nonverbal cues of deception. It was also found that there was not a significant difference between the accuracy rates of law enforcement and college students, indicating that those considering themselves professional lie detectors fell victim to the same misconceptions on nonverbal cues as a lay person (Vrij & Semin, 1996).
While Vrij and Semin's study does provide useful data that professional lie detectors have no superior knowledge of deceptive nonverbal cues than the rest of us, it does lack in that none of the subjects were actually tested in their ability to detect deception. This study will address that lack by actually testing whether or not subjects can detect deception through nonverbal cues, particularly by focusing on voice pitch. It is predicted that such attention to nonverbal cues will detect deception at a higher rate than chance and that those observers relying on voice pitch as a deceptive cue will be more accurate than observers relying on other nonverbal cues.
A pool of 761 subjects was recruited consisting of 454 females and 307 males who were informed that they would be participating in an undergraduate psychology tutorial study. These subjects ranged in age from 17 to 56 years with a mean age of 19.77 years and a standard deviation of 2.58 years.
For this study, each subject was instructed to tell a story to another subject. This narrative could either be true or false and the observer