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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26017. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026017. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Receivers limit the prevalence of deception in humans: evidence from diving behaviour in soccer players.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia.


Deception remains a hotly debated topic in evolutionary and behavioural research. Our understanding of what impedes or facilitates the use and detection of deceptive signals in humans is still largely limited to studies of verbal deception under laboratory conditions. Recent theoretical models of non-human behaviour have suggested that the potential outcome for deceivers and the ability of receivers to discriminate signals can effectively maintain their honesty. In this paper, we empirically test these predictions in a real-world case of human deception, simulation in soccer. In support of theoretical predictions in signalling theory, we show that cost-free deceit by soccer players decreases as the potential outcome for the signaller becomes more costly. We further show that the ability of receivers (referees) to detect deceptive signals may limit the prevalence of deception by soccer players. Our study provides empirical support to recent theoretical models in signalling theory, and identifies conditions that may facilitate human deception and hinder its detection.

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