Full House of Fears: Evidence That People High in Attachment Anxiety Are More Accurate in Detecting Deceit



Lying is deep-rooted in our nature, as over 90% of all people lie. Laypeople, however, do only slightly better than chance when detecting lies and deceptions. Recently, attachment anxiety was linked with people's hypervigilance toward threat-related cues. Accordingly, we tested whether attachment anxiety predicts people's ability to detect deceit and to play poker—a game that is based on players' ability to detect cheating. In Study 1, 202 participants watched a series of interpersonal interactions that comprised subtle clues to the honesty or dishonesty of the speakers. In Study 2, 58 participants watched clips in which such cues were absent. Participants were asked to decide whether the main characters were honest or dishonest. In Study 3, we asked 35 semiprofessional poker players to participate in a poker tournament, and then we predicted the amount of money won during the game. Results indicated that attachment anxiety, but not other types of anxiety, predicted more accurate detection of deceitful statements (Studies 1–2) and a greater amount of money won during a game of poker (Study 3). Results are discussed in relation to the possible adaptive functions of certain personality characteristics, such as attachment anxiety, often viewed as undesirable.