How partisan voters detect deception in polarizing political media

Abstract: The public considers politicians to be deceptive. Empirical research, however, indicates voters fail to notice deception from politicians in practice. An experiment was run in which U.S. voters (n = 133 Democrats, n = 138 Republicans) watched a partisan news interview featuring a senator. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: a Fox News interviewer accusing (or not accusing) a Democrat of deception, or a CNN interviewer accusing (or not accusing) a Republican of deception. Consistent with truth-default theory (TDT), voters distrusted a politician through elevated suspicion toward the politician, followed by perceiving deceptive messaging. Also in line with TDT, in-group/out-group bias drove perceptions of deception. However, moderated multiple mediator modeling indicated voters reacted the same regardless of whether the media accused the politician of deception.

Are deceitful politicians impervious to scrutiny? A test of voters’ truth-default

Abstract: Truth-default theory (TDT) holds that people tend to passively believe others without consciously considering whether they are being told the truth. But do voters have a truth-default toward politicians? In an experiment, voters across the U.S. (N = 294) watched a news interview in which a politician was either honest or deceptive. Party affiliation was also manipulated. Consistent with TDT, thought-listing tasks revealed that most voters did not mention deception after exposure to the  campaign interview. Voters largely defaulted to the truth even when sustaining outgroup partisan exposure and deception, and when asked about the politician’s demeanor. Filling out closed-ended scales, though, voters reported distrust, suspicion, and perceiving deceptive messaging. Discussion concerns implications of voters’ perceptions of a politician’s veracity varying based on how voters are prompted.

The power of political journalists as deception detectors and how politicians reactivate voters’ truth-default

Abstract: Journalists serve as deception detectors for voters. Sometimes politicians refute journalists’ assertions. How do voters discern whom to believe? Based on cognitive sequences posited by truth-default theory (TDT), experiments tested voters’ reactions to alleged deceptiveness in a political news interview. In Study 1 (N = 209) perceptions of a politician being truthfully or falsely accused of deception depended on voters’ projected motive for deception by journalists. In Study 2 (N = 259) voters did not vary in their reactions to a politician whether or not the politician refuted a bogus allegation of evasion—with the exception of voters who perceived very low or high deceptive demeanor from the politician. Consistent with TDT: (a) voters seem to automatically believe journalists, (b) projected motive for deception buffers against being misled, and (c) a politician’s believability is largely based on misleading demeanor cues.

Truth Bias and Partisan Bias in Political Deception Detection

Every two years the International Association of Language and Social Psychology selects a Top Paper Award. This year the award was given to David Clementson for  “Truth Bias and Partisan Bias in Political Deception Detection,”

Abstract: This study tests the effects of political partisanship on voters’ perception and detection of deception. Based on social identity theory, in-group members should consider their politician’s message truthful while the opposing out-group would consider the message deceptive. Truth-default theory predicts that a salient in-group would be susceptible to deception from their in-group politician. In an experiment, partisan voters in the United States (N = 618) watched a news interview in which a politician was labeled Democratic or Republican. The politician either answered all the questions or deceptively evaded a question. Results indicated that the truth bias largely prevailed. Voters were more likely to be accurate in their detection when the politician answered and did not dodge. Truthdefault theory appears robust in a political setting, as truth bias holds (as opposed to deception bias). Accuracy in detection also depends on group affiliation. In-groups are accurate when their politician answers, and inaccurate when he dodges. Out-groups are more accurate than in-groups when a politician dodges, but still exhibit truth bias.