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We sought to determine whether sensation seeking would differentially predict measures of memory and deception (concealing information) as indexed by behavioral (response time, accuracy) and autonomic (skin conductance level) markers in a sample of college students. Participants were randomly assigned to a mock-crime group or an innocent-errand group. Both groups were trained to complete a task requiring the copying of documents from a secure location; the difference was the mock-crime group broke into the office whereas the errand group was given permission to enter the room and access the documents. After being trained to perform the crime or errand task, participants watched a video that showed a first-person account of the crime/errand. Participants in the mock-crime group were told to conceal their knowledge of the task during an examination on the next day but to be truthful otherwise. Participants in the errand group were truthful to all items during the examination. The examination involved a recognition task that included words that were (a) scenario-related, (b) personally familiar words gathered from participants' responses to questions about their lives, and (c) irrelevant words not related to the scenario nor their personal lives. Response accuracy differed for the mock-crime and errand groups, but not as a function of sensation seeking. Skin conductance responses revealed that high and low sensation seeking impacted the mock-crime and errand groups differently to personally familiar and irrelevant words, but not to scenario-related words. Findings show that determining whether individuals are high or low sensation seekers prior to assessing deception may be useful for establishing criteria for detecting deception. These results also demonstrate the need to consider personality traits in both detecting deception and understanding the biological correlates of deception.

Journal Title

North American Journal of Psychology