Purpose. The process of catching liars is challenging, though evidence suggests that deception detection abilities are influenced by the characteristics of the judge. This study examined individual differences in emotional processing and levels of psychopathic traits on the ability to judge the veracity of written narratives varying in emotional valence.

Methods. Undergraduate participants (N= 251) judged the veracity of 12 written narratives (truthful/deceptive) across three emotional categories: positive, negative, and neutral events. Levels of psychopathy were assessed to investigate its relation to accuracy and cue use.

Results. Overall accuracy was close to chance, although participants were more accurate in determining the veracity of truthful relative to deceptive narratives. Accuracy was impaired for emotional (positive and negative) relative to neutral narratives. Psychopathy was not associated with levels of overall accuracy, but related to discriminative ability, and differential use of cues in decision making. Reported cue use also differed across emotional narrative conditions.

Conclusions. We speculated that an emotive truth bias may have detracted judges from attending to valid cues that are indicative of the deceptive nature of stimuli because they were distracted by the emotional content of the report. Implications for deception detection in forensic settings are discussed.