In general, people are poor at detecting deception. Older adults are even worse than young adults at detecting deceit, which might make them uniquely vulnerable to certain types of financial fraud. One reason for poor deceit detection abilities is that lay theories of cues to deception are not valid. This study compared the effectiveness of two training methods to improve deceit detection among older adults: valid facial cues versus valid verbal cues to deception. Approximately 150 older adults were randomly assigned to facial training, verbal training, or a control condition. Participants completed a pre-test deceit detection task, their assigned training, and a post-test deceit detection task.
Both training groups significantly improved at recognizing their respectively trained cues after training. However, the facial cue training group were less accurate at detecting deception post-test compared to pre-test and the control group exhibited improved accuracy of deceit detection from pre-test to post-test.
These results are consistent with the body of literature on deception suggesting people hover around chance accuracy, even after training. Older adults’ facial and verbal cue recognition can be improved with training, but these improvements did not translate into more accurate deceit detection, and actually hampered performance in the facial condition. Older adults showed the most benefit from sheer practice at detecting deception (in the control condition), perhaps because this condition encouraged implicit rather than explicit judgments of deception.