A liar and a copycat: Nonverbal coordination increases with lie difficulty

Sophie van der Zee*, Paul Taylor, Ruth Wong, John Dixon, Tarek Menacere

*Corresponding author for this work

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Studies of the nonverbal correlates of deception tend to examine liars' behaviours as independent from the behaviour of the interviewer, ignoring joint action. To address this gap, experiment 1 examined the effect of telling a truth and easy, difficult and very difficult lies on nonverbal coordination. Nonverbal coordination was measured automatically by applying a dynamic time warping algorithm to motion-capture data. In experiment 2, interviewees also received instructions that influenced the attention they paid to either the nonverbal or verbal behaviour of the interviewer. Results from both experiments found that interviewer-interviewee nonverbal coordination increased with lie difficulty. This increase was not influenced by the degree to which interviewees paid attention to their nonverbal behaviour, nor by the degree of interviewer's suspicion. Our findings are consistent with the broader proposition that people rely on automated processes such as mimicry when under cognitive load.

Original languageEnglish
Article number200839
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2021


  • Cognitive load
  • Deception
  • Mimicry
  • Motion capture
  • Nonverbal coordination
  • UT-Gold-D


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