Table of Contents
Journal of Criminology
Volume 2014, Article ID 547519, 9 pages
Research Article

Is the Truth in Your Words? Distinguishing Children’s Deceptive and Truthful Statements

1McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 0G4
2Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada K7L 3N6
3University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 2J7

Received 24 June 2013; Accepted 21 October 2013; Published 22 January 2014

Academic Editor: Pär Anders Granhag

Copyright © 2014 Shanna Mary Williams et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Children’s (N = 48) and adults’ (N = 28) truthful and deceptive statements were compared using a linguistics-based computer software program. Children (4 to 7 years of age) and adults (18 to 25 years of age) participated in a mock courtroom experiment, in which they were asked to recount either a true or fabricated event. Testimonies were then analyzed using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count Software (LIWC; Pennebaker et al. 2007). This software has been previously used to detect adults’ deceptive statements (e.g., Bond and Lee, 2005). To date, no research has used this method on children’s narratives, nor has this software been used to compare those narratives to adult counterparts. Markers generated through the LIWC program achieved detection rates of 72.40% for samples of both children’s and adults’ narratives combined. In contrast, adult laypersons’ (N = 48) detection rates, for the same narratives (i.e., both children and adults) were close to chance. More specifically, detection rates were above chance for truth (65.00%) and below chance for lies (45.00%). Thus, the linguistic profile provided through LIWC yielded greater accuracy for evaluating the veracity of children’s and adults’ narratives compared to adult laypersons’ detection accuracy.