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Concept: Deception


Pollination of several angiosperms is based on deceit. In such systems, the flowers advertise a reward that ultimately is not provided. We report on a previously unknown pollination/mimicry system discovered in deceptive Aristolochia rotunda (Aristolochiaceae). Pollinators were collected in the natural habitat and identified. Flower scent and the volatiles of insects (models) potentially mimicked were analyzed by chemical analytical techniques. Electrophysiological and behavioral tests on the pollinators identified the components that mediate the plant-pollinator interaction and revealed the model of the mimicry system. The main pollinators of A. rotunda were female Chloropidae. They are food thieves that feed on secretions of true bugs (Miridae) while these are eaten by arthropod predators. Freshly killed mirids and Aristolochia flowers released the same scent components that chloropids use to find their food sources. Aristolochia exploits these components to deceive their chloropid pollinators. Aristolochia and other trap flowers were believed to lure saprophilous flies and mimic brood sites of pollinators. We demonstrate for A. rotunda, and hypothesize for other deceptive angiosperms, the evolution of a different, kleptomyiophilous pollination strategy. It involves scent mimicry and the exploitation of kleptoparasitic flies as pollinators. Our findings suggest a reconsideration of plants assumed to show sapromyiophilous pollination.

Concepts: Insect, Mimicry, Pollination, Flower, Lepidoptera, Pollen, Deception, Aristolochia


The capacity to deceive others is a complex mental skill that requires the ability to suppress truthful information. The polygraph is widely used in countries such as the USA to detect deception. However, little is known about the effects of emotional processes (such as the fear of being found guilty despite being innocent) on the physiological responses that are used to detect lies. The aim of this study was to investigate the time course and neural correlates of untruthful behavior by analyzing electrocortical indexes in response to visually presented neutral and affective questions. Affective questions included sexual, shameful or disgusting topics. A total of 296 questions that were inherently true or false were presented to 25 subjects while ERPs were recorded from 128 scalp sites. Subjects were asked to lie on half of the questions and to answer truthfully on the remaining half. Behavioral and ERP responses indicated an increased need for executive control functions, namely working memory, inhibition and task switching processes, during deceptive responses. Deceptive responses also elicited a more negative N400 over the prefrontal areas and a smaller late positivity (LP 550-750 ms) over the prefrontal and frontal areas. However, a reduction in LP amplitude was also elicited by truthful affective responses. The failure to observe a difference in LP responses across conditions likely results from emotional interference. A swLORETA inverse solution was computed on the N400 amplitude (300-400 ms) for the dishonest - honest contrast. These results showed the activation of the superior, medial, middle and inferior frontal gyri (BA9, 11, 47) and the anterior cingulate cortex during deceptive responses. Our results conclude that the N400 amplitude is a reliable neural marker of deception.

Concepts: Psychology, Cerebrum, Emotion, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Cingulate cortex, Lie, Deception


Cognitive theories on deception posit that lying requires more cognitive resources than telling the truth. In line with this idea, it has been demonstrated that deceptive responses are typically associated with increased response times and higher error rates compared to truthful responses. Although the cognitive cost of lying has been assumed to be resistant to practice, it has recently been shown that people who are trained to lie can reduce this cost. In the present study (n = 42), we further explored the effects of practice on one’s ability to lie by manipulating the proportions of lie and truth-trials in a Sheffield lie test across three phases: Baseline (50% lie, 50% truth), Training (frequent-lie group: 75% lie, 25% truth; control group: 50% lie, 50% truth; and frequent-truth group: 25% lie, 75% truth), and Test (50% lie, 50% truth). The results showed that lying became easier while participants were trained to lie more often and that lying became more difficult while participants were trained to tell the truth more often. Furthermore, these effects did carry over to the test phase, but only for the specific items that were used for the training manipulation. Hence, our study confirms that relatively little practice is enough to alter the cognitive cost of lying, although this effect does not persist over time for non-practiced items.

Concepts: Truth, Training, Practice, Group, Group theory, Concept, Lie, Deception


The Inhibitory-Spillover-Effect (ISE) on a deception task was investigated. The ISE occurs when performance in one self-control task facilitates performance in another (simultaneously conducted) self-control task. Deceiving requires increased access to inhibitory control. We hypothesized that inducing liars to control urination urgency (physical inhibition) would facilitate control during deceptive interviews (cognitive inhibition). Participants drank small (low-control) or large (high-control) amounts of water. Next, they lied or told the truth to an interviewer. Third-party observers assessed the presence of behavioral cues and made true/lie judgments. In the high-control, but not the low-control condition, liars displayed significantly fewer behavioral cues to deception, more behavioral cues signaling truth, and provided longer and more complex accounts than truth-tellers. Accuracy detecting liars in the high-control condition was significantly impaired; observers revealed bias toward perceiving liars as truth-tellers. The ISE can operate in complex behaviors. Acts of deception can be facilitated by covert manipulations of self-control.

Concepts: Psychology, Urinary bladder, Human behavior, Behaviorism, Lie, Deception, Half-truth, Secrecy


Healthcare services increasingly use the activity recognition technology to track the daily activities of individuals. In some cases, this is used to provide incentives. For example, some health insurance companies offer discount to customers who are physically active, based on the data collected from their activity tracking devices. Therefore, there is an increasing motivation for individuals to cheat, by making activity trackers detect activities that increase their benefits rather than the ones they actually do. In this study, we used a novel method to make activity recognition robust against deceptive behavior. We asked 14 subjects to attempt to trick our smartphone-based activity classifier by making it detect an activity other than the one they actually performed, for example by shaking the phone while seated to make the classifier detect walking. If they succeeded, we used their motion data to retrain the classifier, and asked them to try to trick it again. The experiment ended when subjects could no longer cheat. We found that some subjects were not able to trick the classifier at all, while others required five rounds of retraining. While classifiers trained on normal activity data predicted true activity with ~38% accuracy, training on the data gathered during the deceptive behavior increased their accuracy to ~84%. We conclude that learning the deceptive behavior of one individual helps to detect the deceptive behavior of others. Thus, we can make current activity recognition robust to deception by including deceptive activity data from a few individuals.

Concepts: Training, Activity, Motivation, Human behavior, Automation, Normality, Deception, Retraining


Magicians use several techniques to deceive their audiences, including, for example, the misdirection of attention and verbal suggestion. We explored another potential stratagem, namely the relaxation of attention. Participants watched a video of a highly skilled magician whilst having their eye-blinks recorded. The timing of spontaneous eye-blinks was highly synchronized across participants. In addition, the synchronized blinks frequency occurred immediately after a seemingly impossible feat, and often coincided with actions that the magician wanted to conceal from the audience. Given that blinking is associated with the relaxation of attention, these findings suggest that blinking plays an important role in the perception of magic, and that magicians may utilize blinking and the relaxation of attention to hide certain secret actions.

Concepts: Performance, Deception, Audience, Secrecy, Audience theory, Magician, Escapology, Antonio Esfandiari


Deception, the use of false signals to modify the behaviour of the receiver, occurs in low frequencies even in stable signalling systems. For example, it can be advantageous for subordinate individuals to deceive in competitive situations. We investigated in a three-way choice task whether dogs are able to mislead a human competitor, i.e. if they are capable of tactical deception. During training, dogs experienced the role of their owner, as always being cooperative, and two unfamiliar humans, one acting ‘cooperatively’ by giving food and the other being ‘competitive’ and keeping the food for themselves. During the test, the dog had the options to lead one of these partners to one of the three potential food locations: one contained a favoured food item, the other a non-preferred food item and the third remained empty. After having led one of the partners, the dog always had the possibility of leading its cooperative owner to one of the food locations. Therefore, a dog would have a direct benefit from misleading the competitive partner since it would then get another chance to receive the preferred food from the owner. On the first test day, the dogs led the cooperative partner to the preferred food box more often than expected by chance and more often than the competitive partner. On the second day, they even led the competitive partner less often to the preferred food than expected by chance and more often to the empty box than the cooperative partner. These results show that dogs distinguished between the cooperative and the competitive partner, and indicate the flexibility of dogs to adjust their behaviour and that they are able to use tactical deception.

Concepts: Predation, Dog, Canidae, Lie, Gray Wolf, Canis, Deception, Subspecies of Canis lupus


Several studies demonstrated that placebo treatment may have a significant impact on many different symptoms. While in the traditional view concealment of the placebo is essential, recent studies report intriguing evidence that placebos may work even without deception. For example, it has been demonstrated that open-label placebos can improve symptoms in allergic rhinitis. However, the mechanisms of how placebos without concealment work remain unknown.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Clinical research, Nocebo, Placebo, Homeopathy, Deception


In this paper, I argue that deceptive placebo use can be morally permissible, on the grounds that the deception involved in the prescription of deceptive placebos can differ in kind to the sorts of deception that undermine personal autonomy. In order to argue this, I shall first delineate two accounts of why deception is inimical to autonomy. On these accounts, deception is understood to be inimical to the deceived agent’s autonomy because it either involves subjugating the deceived agent’s will to another’s authority or because it precludes the agent from acting effectively in pursuit of their ends. I shall argue that providing an agent with false beliefs is not inimical to their autonomy if they are only able to effectively pursue their autonomously chosen ends by virtue of holding those particular false beliefs. Finally, I show that deceptive placebo use need only involve this latter sort of deception.

Concepts: Belief, English-language films, Autonomy, Nocebo, Placebo, Bioethics, Lie, Deception


There is a paucity of published systematic research investigating object detection within the military context. Here, we establish baseline human detection performance for five standard military issued camouflage patterns. Stimuli were drawn from a database of 1242 calibrated images of a mixed deciduous woodland environment in Bristol, UK. Images within this database were taken during daylight hours, in summer and contained a PASGT helmet, systematically positioned within each scene. Subjects (20) discriminated between the two image types in a temporal 2AFC task (500ms presentation for each interval), with the detection scenario being the percentage of instances participants correctly detected the target. Cueing (cued/not-cued to target location), colour (colour/greyscale) and distance from the observer (3.5/5/7.5m) were manipulated, as was helmet camouflage pattern. A Generalized Linear Mixed Model revealed significant interactions between all variables on participant performance, with greater accuracy when stimuli were in colour, and the target location was cued. There was also a clear ranking of patterns in terms of effectiveness of camouflage. We also compare the results with a computational model based on low-level vision, and eye tracking data, with encouraging results. Our methodology provides a controlled means of assessing any camouflage in any environment, and the potential to implement a machine vision solution to assessment. In this instance, we show differences in the effectiveness of existing solutions to the problem of camouflage, concealment and deception (CCD) on the battlefield. Funded by QinetiQ as part of Materials and Structures Low Observable Materials Research Programme. Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015.

Concepts: Deception, Camouflage, Helmet, Military camouflage, Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, ERDL pattern, Army Combat Uniform