“Duped” — understanding the truth-default theory and the social science of lying and deception

UAB Communication Studies professor Timothy Levine discusses the social science behind lying and human deception in his newest book, “Duped.”

Duped2We are all wired to be duped.  

Across a host of issues ranging from fake news and climate-science denial to Bernie Madoff’s appeal to investors and many others, some people may appear authentic and sincere, even when the facts discredit them. In turn, many people fall victim to conspiracy theories and economic scams. In short, people can be astoundingly gullible.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Timothy Levine, Ph.D., professor and chair of UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences Department of Communication Studies, has released his latest book, “Duped: Truth-Default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception,” which discusses the truth-default theory, the reasoning behind lying and deception — and why human beings are so easily deceived.

“Duped” recounts a decades-long program of empirical research that culminates in a new theory of deception — the truth-default theory. This theory holds that the content of incoming communication is typically accepted as true, and most of the time this is good. By this notion, the theory allows humans to function socially, but also makes us more vulnerable to occasional deceit.

“I have been researching deception for my entire academic career. Initially, each research finding led to more questions,” Levine said. “About 10 years ago, I started to see how the findings fit together. ‘Duped’ tells the story of human deception and how I came to understand it.”

Levine’s research on lie detection and truth-bias has produced many new findings during his 25 years studying deception; he has more than 140 articles of published research appearing in academic journals. Levine has uncovered what makes some people more believable than others and has discovered several ways to improve lie-detection accuracy.

“For more than 20 years, I have thought that both folk and academic understandings of deception were misguided,” Levine said. “‘Duped’ sets the record straight.”

In “Duped,” Levine details where these ideas came from, how they were tested, and how the findings combine to produce a coherent new understanding of human deception and deception detection. 

“Duped” is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sellers.