Most people don't find it more difficult to lie in a foreign language than in their native tongue. However, things are different when telling the truth: This is clearly more difficult for many people in a foreign language than in their native one.?
This unexpected conclusion is the result of a study conducted by two psychologists from the University of Würzburg: Kristina Suchotzki, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Psychology I, and Matthias Gamer, Professor of Experimental Clinical Psychology.?
这一令人惊讶的结论由维尔茨堡大学的两位心理学家Kristina Suchotzki（心理学系博士后研究员）和Matthias Gamer（临床实验心理学教授）研究得出。
The two scientists now present their insights in Journal of Experimental Psychology.?
Their findings could be important for a lot of processes in which the trustworthiness of certain people must be evaluated — for example in asylum procedures.?
In such situations, reports by non-native speakers tend to be perceived as less believable even though they may be truthful.?
Two contradicting theories
There are two research theories to predict differences between deception and truth telling in a native compared to a second language.?
Research from cognitive load theory suggests that lying is more difficult in a foreign language.?
"Compared to truth telling, lying is a cognitively more demanding task," Kristina Suchotzki explains. Adding a foreign language imposes an additional cognitive challenge which makes lying even more difficult.
Lying is easier in a foreign language: This should be true according to the emotional distance hypothesis. This assumption is based on the fact that lying is associated with more emotions than staying with the truth. Liars have higher stress levels and are more tense.?
Research from linguistics, psychology and psychophysiology shows that compared to speaking in a native language, communicating in a second language is less emotionally arousing.?
"Based on the emotional distance hypothesis, you would hence expect lying in a foreign language to be less arousing emotionally," Suchotzki says. Accordingly, this reduced emotional arousal would facilitate lying.
“根据情感距离假设，用外语撒谎时情绪不会那么激动，” Suchotzki说。 因此，减弱的情绪化会有利于说谎。
Experiments and results
To settle this question, the Würzburg psychologists conducted a number of experiments in which up to 50 test persons had to complete specific tasks.?
They were asked to answer a number of questions — sometimes truthfully and sometimes deceptively both in their native language and in a foreign language. Some questions were neutral such as "Berlin is/is not in Germany"; other questions were clearly emotional like "Have you ever taken illegal drugs?" or "Would you work as a nude model?".
While the test participants answered the questions, the scientists measured their response time, skin conductance and heart rate.
In a nutshell, the results are as follows:
Usually, it takes longer to answer emotional questions than neutral ones.
Answers in the foreign language also take longer than their native language counterparts.
Generally, it takes longer to tell a lie than to tell the truth.
However, the time difference between deceptive and truthful answers are less pronounced in a second language than in the native language.
The slight difference does not, however, result from giving a faster deceptive response. Rather in a foreign language, telling the truth takes longer than in one's native tongue.
Whether neutral or emotional question: The time differences between telling the truth and lying are generally smaller in a foreign language.
The scientists believe that these findings reflect the "antagonistic effects of emotional distance and cognitive load".?