Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




Experimental Psychology

First Advisor

Jennifer Vendemia


I conceptualize a theory of deception within the perspective of discourse and pragmatics while choosing to examine the decision to engage in deception within the perspective of cognitive psychology. Currently, cognitive perspectives of deception have emphasized that inhibitory control of one’s motor processes are vital because in order to respond deceptively, one must prevent honest behavior from leaking into one’s actions. Although indirect evidence for inhibition is heavily linked with deception, current empirical data connecting motoric control with deceptive responses has been difficult to observe. I propose a theoretical perspective that shifts the role of inhibitory control in deception away from motoric control and into long-term memory knowledge structures. I propose that deception requires the inhibition of semantic-memory so as to enable the construction of short-term memory representations that contradict semantic-memory. In order to examine this question, I constructed sentences that either reflected or violated world-knowledge (i.e. true or false sentences) and also manipulated the predictability of these sentences. Participants read these sentences and either responded deceptively or honestly. The findings suggest that deception suppresses semantic activation that normally is triggered automatically. The final experiment validated a novel method to study deception and suggested that the specific nature of a goal underlying the deceptive behavior is related to this suppression of semantic memory. Future studies are proposed to explore if the suppression of semantic memory is generalized across all knowledge-structure or is specific to the nature of the deceptive goal.

Included in

Psychology Commons