J Exp Psychol Gen. 2022 Aug 18. doi: 10.1037/xge0001277. Online ahead of print.
How do people detect lies from the content of messages, and design lies that go undetected? Lying requires strategic reasoning about how others think and respond. We propose a unified framework underlying lie design and detection, formalized as recursive social reasoning. Senders design lies by inferring the likelihood the receiver detects potential lies; receivers detect lies by inferring if and how the sender would lie. Under this framework, we can predict the rate and content of lies people produce, and which lies are detected. In Experiment 1, we show that people calibrate the extremeness of their lies and what lies they detect to beliefs about goals and the statistics of the world. In Experiment 2, we present stronger diagnostic evidence for the function of social reasoning in lying: people cater their lies to their audience, even when their audience’s beliefs differ from their own. We conclude that recursive and rational social reasoning is a key cognitive process underlying how people communicate in adversarial settings. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).