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Deception Memory: When Will Consumers Remember Their Lies?

Elizabeth Cowley, Christina I Anthony, Darren W DahlEditor, Amna KirmaniEditor and Peter R DarkeAssociate Editor

Journal of Consumer Research, 2019, vol. 46, issue 1, 180-199

Abstract: Consumers tell many lies. While engaging in deception can provide a variety of benefits, a potential danger when lying is that the consumer may subsequently forget aspects of the lie told. To ensure the deception is not inadvertently revealed later, the consumer must remember the content of the lie. In this research, we introduce the notion of deception memory—which we define as memory for the content of a previously communicated lie—and examine what differentiates a memorable lie from a forgettable lie. Three behavioral studies where consumers lie to marketers (study 1) or fellow consumers (studies 2 and 3) and a critical incident study (study 4) show that increases in the consequentiality of the lie heightens lie-induced arousal (LIA), which narrows attention to the content of the lie and subsequently improves deception memory. Therefore, while more arousing lies may be more consequential, and therefore, riskier to tell, our results suggest that they are less likely to be forgotten. This is the first examination of retrieval accuracy for deception memory. Finally, many avenues for future research related to memorable and forgettable lies are proposed in this article.

Keywords: memory; deception; arousal; attention narrowing (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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