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Purpose. To investigate the beliefs that people hold about the cues to deception in serious and trivial lies.

Method. A questionnaire study considered the beliefs which people have about the cues to deception in themselves and other people in both trivial and serious lies. Participants were asked to consider how likely it was that a number of verbal and non-verbal behaviours would give themselves or someone else away during deception. Half the participants considered cues to deception in themselves and the remainder considered cues in other people. All participants were asked to make a judgment on cues to deception in both trivial and serious situations.

Results. It was predicted that making the consequences of the lie both salient and meaningful to participants would make participants less stereotypical in their beliefs. Results partially supported these hypotheses – serious lies were associated with more nervous behaviours than trivial ones and a total of six behaviours were regarded as occurring significantly less often in trivial lies than in truthful situations.

Conclusions. While similar results were found for serious self-generated lies to those found in previous research using vignettes, there was some suggestion that the use of a more individually salient lying situation did reduce the reliance on stereotyped behaviour. The believed decrease in certain behaviours during trivial lies is a promising result, and these results are discussed with reference to the roles that stereotypes and heuristics play in ineffective lie detection.