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Does Lying Require More or Less Visual Working Memory and What Does It Mean for the Legal System?

NCJ Number
Journal of Vision Volume: 19 Issue: 10 Dated: 2019
Date Published

This study uses a behavioral paradigm and electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings to assess assumptions about lying and memory that inform the legal system.


This study uses subjects’ electroencephalogram (EEG) and behavior to test an assumption underlying the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), the rules that determine what evidence juries hear. The authors used a behavioral paradigm and EEG recordings to assess the validity of the assumption that lying about something you are viewing is more difficult. The authors’ measurements of brain activity suggest that individuals hold less information in visual working memory when lying compared to truth telling, possibly by dropping the truthful representation from visual working memory. However, consistent with the Present Sense Impression exception, the authors found that this strategy took additional time to implement. Thus, scientifically testing the assumptions that our legal system is based on can benefit both the law and the application of vision science to our lives. Although the rules are intended to promote accuracy, they are premised on untested psychological assumptions. One example of such an untested assumption is an exception to the ban against hearsay, the requirement that the person who actually observed the event must testify under oath. The Present Sense Impression admits hearsay testimony about contemporaneously viewed events based on the assumption that people cannot lie about something they are currently viewing. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2019