Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Maria Hartwig

Subject Categories

Law | Psychology


cybernetics; deception; self-presentation; self-regulation


Using concepts derived from cybernetics, self-presentation theory, and research on human self-regulation, I develop a cybernetic perspective of deception and self-presentation. In this perspective, human communication, both honest and deceptive, is controlled by feedback mechanisms. I report two studies designed to test the basic prediction derived from the cybernetic framework that deceivers are able to better emulate truth-tellers when they have access to relevant reference information about the way truth-tellers behave. Each study manipulated liars' and truth-tellers' access to reference information in a different manner. In Study 1, some participants viewed video recordings of people being interviewed in a manner highly similar to the way the participants would be imminently interviewed. I hypothesized that the exemplar videos would equip liars with reference information that would enable to them to 'counterfeit' a truth-teller's behavior. In Study 2, some participants engaged in activities analogous to the task about which they were to be interviewed. Of those who completed the analogous activities, some were interviewed about those activities, and some were not. I hypothesized that liars who completed the analogous activities and were interviewed about them would gain reference information from their own behavior and be better able to counterfeit truthful responses. The results of Study 1 partially supported the hypotheses. The results of Study 2 failed to support the hypotheses, possibly because processes more complex than expected were at work. Implications of the results are discussed in relation to the cybernetic framework of self-presentation and deception.