UvA lie researcher wins fake Nobel Prize

23 September 2016

Bruno Verschuere, associate professor of Forensic Psychology at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), is the proud recipient of the Ig Nobel Prize, the parody of the Nobel Prize. Verschuere was selected for a study conducted in collaboration with colleagues in Belgium and the United States in which he asked more than one thousand people to be honest about how much they lie. Verschuere and his team were awarded the prize for Psychology.

In a one-minute speech, Verschuere accepted the prize on behalf of his research team during an award ceremony held on 22 September at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre in the USA.

The Ig Nobel Prizes are presented one week before the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners and are awarded in ten categories. Conferred by genuine Nobel Laureates, the aim of the awards is to ‘honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think’.

Are computers animals?

Verschuere and his colleagues discovered that young adults lie more frequently than other age groups and are also the most accomplished liars. Children and seniors tell the fewest lies and are also less proficient. The team conducted its research among more than a thousand visitors to the NEMO Science Museum, ranging in age from 6 to 77. Participants were asked to indicate how often they lie and were also required to answer a handful of simple questions – such as ‘Are igloos made of stone?’ and ‘Are computers animals?’ – as quickly as possible. A colour on a screen signalled whether or not they were supposed to answer truthfully. The test revealed that people become increasingly adept at lying up until the age of around 25, after which ability begins to decline. The findings were published last year in the scientific journal Acta Psychologica.

Paradoxical

‘I think it's quite apt that my research on lying is being recognised with an Ig Nobel Prize’, Verschuere said in an interview from the United States. ‘Initially I was very sceptical of the method too – obviously it's rather paradoxical to ask liars to be honest. To my surprise, however, further research offered proof that many liars are truthful about their propensity for falsehood.’

Publication details

Debey, E., De Schryver, M., Logan, G. D., Suchotzki, K., & Verschuere, B. (2015). ‘From junior to senior Pinocchio: A cross-sectional lifespan investigation of deception’ in Acta Psychologica, 160, 56-68.

Published by  UvA Persvoorlichting