Designing good deception: Recursive theory of mind in lying and lie detection
- Lauren Oey, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States
- Adena Schachner, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States
- Ed Vul, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States
AbstractThe human ability to deceive others and detect deception has long been tied to theory of mind. We make a stronger argument: in order to be adept liars – to balance gain (i.e. maximizing their own reward) and plausibility (i.e. maintaining a realistic lie) – humans calibrate their lies under the assumption that their partner is a rational, utility-maximizing agent. We develop an adversarial recursive Bayesian model that aims to formalize the behaviors of liars and lie detectors. We compare this model to (1) a model that does not perform theory of mind computations and (2) a model that has perfect knowledge of the opponent’s behavior. To test these models, we introduce a novel dyadic, stochastic game, allowing for quantitative measures of lies and lie detection. In a second experiment, we vary the ground truth probability. We find that our rational models qualitatively predict human lying and lie detecting behavior better than the non-rational model. Our findings suggest that humans control for the extremeness of their lies in a manner reflective of rational social inference. These findings provide a new paradigm and formal framework for nuanced quantitative analysis of the role of rationality and theory of mind in lying and lie detecting behavior.
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