Seeing and believing: Visual access and the strategic use of deception

Maurice E. Schweitzer, Susan E. Brodt, Rachel T.A. Croson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


While prior work has focused on the importance of visual access and visual cues to targets of deception, this article highlights its importance to deceivers. We introduce a new approach for conceptualizing deception and distinguish between two types of lies according to the relative value to the deceiver of being able to monitor the target's reaction to the lie; deceivers telling monitoring-dependent lies benefit significantly more from being able to monitor their target than do deceivers telling monitoring-independent lies. We examine this distinction and its implications for the strategic use of deception, by manipulating visual access in a negotiation experiment with teleconference and videoconference media. We find consistent differences between deceivers use of and consequences of these two types of lies as a function of visual access. First, the use of monitoring-dependent lies was significantly greater with visual access than without it, while the use of monitoring-independent lies was unaffected by visual access. Second, consistent with our conceptualization, participants who lied were trusted less by their counterpart than were participants who did not lie, except when participants with visual access told monitoring-dependent lies. In these cases deceivers were actually trusted more by their counterpart than participants who did not lie. These results support our conceptualization and suggest that visual access may actually harm potential targets of deception - by increasing their risk of being deceived and inappropriately increasing their interpersonal trust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-275
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


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