Theory Review and Critique Sample
Interpersonal deception theory was developed by Burgoon and Buller in 1996. This theory is
meant to demonstrate the complexity of deception and its motivators as well as the relationship
among sender, receiver, and message. The authors claim that conversations are dynamic and that
both the sender and receiver have to put in a lot of work during a conversation. Messages are
being decoded as well as verbal and nonverbal indicators by the listener, and feedback is
provided. The sender has to encode the message and decode the listener’s behavior to determine
their receptiveness to the message, all the while trying to keep the interpersonal relationship
intact. This being said, interpersonal deception theory (IDT) suggests that due to the complexity
of interpersonal relationships (along with other factors such as truth bias, relational familiarity,
and interactivity) deception detection becomes harder and harder to do, and there is no clear cut
verbal/nonverbal signs to detect a lie.
One of the key concepts of IDT is interactivity. The authors of this theory have found through
extensive research that people are more likely to get away with a lie in real time rather than if the
observer was watching a videotape. This also has to do with the concept of relational familiarity
and truth bias. If I am engaging in a conversation with my best friend, I have the innate
assumption that they are going to be telling me the truth (truth bias) therefore I will not be
looking for the verbal or nonverbal cues that may tell me that they are lying. However, if I am
watching the videotape of a complete stranger, I have no reason to believe that they would be
telling me the truth and therefore would pay more attention to deceptive behavior.
Research in this area tends to vary, while some of the articles I saw claimed that nonverbal
behaviors were accurate deception detection indicators while others claimed that it was not
enough. This was also the case when determining if rapid judgments were reliable or not.
This theory helps us understand communication in a variety of ways. First of all, this theory
makes it clear that there is no to determine whether someone is lying to us or not
and that we are more likely to be fooled by people close to us than complete strangers. The
concepts and relationships of this theory are quite clear and they to me. The
relationships between interactivity and the most sense although that
part of the theory was what was most surprising to me.
This theory has generated a ton of research and the authors of this theory are mentioned in
numerous other deception studies. For example, this theory is important when it comes to
perhaps lie detection in law enforcement and a judiciary setting. In the article about police
observing nonverbal behavior to detect lies, it showed that they were mostly wrong about those
behaviors (Bogaard, Meijer, Merckelbach & Vrij, 2016). While I do think lie detection training is
important, nonverbal cues are not the only aspect.
The evidence supporting this theory is substantial because many studies have been conducted
that support this theory and studies that have hypothesized otherwise have mostly been disproven.
There are many limitations when it comes to the deception studies in communication. The
variations in length of the content being studied can definitely be seen as a limitation, one which
my sixth article aimed to change. Another limitation to this theory could be any one individual’s
ability to lie versus the receivers ability to detect, and vise versa. These abilities can differ from
person to person and from relationship to relationship, which make cold-cut deception detection
techniques and theories hard to define.
Overall, this theory challenges the that if you watch a person close enough,
you can tell if they are lying or not. This theory outlines all of the factors and influences on
deception detection and makes clear relationships between them to suggest that deception
research goes far beyond nervous shakes or sweating.
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