Interpersonal Deception Theory
(David Buller and Judee Burgoon)
COM 452
University of Kentucky
Summer, 2010
In a nutshell…
Communication senders manipulate
messages so as to be untruthful, which might
cause them apprehension concerning their
false communication being detected.
Simultaneously, receivers try to unveil or
detect the validity of that information, causing
suspicion about whether or not the sender is
being deceitful.
Strategies of Deception
Falsification – creating a fiction
Concealment – hiding the truth
Equivocation – dodging the issue
Aspects of Deceptive Messages
Central deceptive message (usually
Ancillary message (includes verbal and
nonverbal aspects) that usually reveal
Inadvertent behaviors (mostly
nonverbal) that point out the sender’s
deceit through “leakage”
IDT as a Theory of Thoughtful
Interpersonal communication is
interactive, so we need to study both
sides of that interaction, including each
party’s adjustments
18 axioms
Strategic deception as thoughtful;
cognitive overload can cause leakage
Manipulating Information
Deceiver must
– Accomplish goal
– Establish/maintain relationship with respondent
– Save face/sustain image
Message characteristics of strategic intent
Uncertainty and vagueness
Nonimmediacy, reticence, and withdrawal
Image-and relationship-protecting
Unconscious behaviors can signal dishonesty
Zuckerman’s four-factor model explains
leakage occurs
– Intense effort yields performances that are too
– Lying causes psychological arousal
– Guilt and anxiety emerge
– Cognitive behaviors tax the brain, leading to
unintentional nonverbal responses
What about the respondent?
Truth bias
Suspicion is a mid-range mindset,
between truth and falsity
Verbal and nonverbal tactics make
listeners wary
Use indirect means to get more
information when we doubt speakers
Deceiver adjustment
Deceivers notice suspicion better than
receivers notice deception (usually)
Deceivers usually model the mood and
manner of their targets
“Othello error” – occurs when truthtellers accused of deception respond in
a manner that appears devious
Critique: Does it have to be so
Multiple explanations for what happens
during deceptive communication
Other theories are more concise
Lacking in explanatory power?
Strength comes from its practical advice
No mention of the morality of deception

INTERVIEWING - Interpersonal Communication