Less is more? Detecting lies in veiled witnesses

Amy May Leach, Nawal Ammar, D. Nicole England, Laura M. Remigio, Bennett Kleinberg, Bruno J. Verschuere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Judges in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have ruled that witnesses may not wear the niqab - a type of face veil - when testifying, in part because they believed that it was necessary to see a person's face to detect deception (Muhammad v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 2006; R. v. N. S., 2010; The Queen v. D(R), 2013). In two studies, we used conventional research methods and safeguards to empirically examine the assumption that niqabs interfere with lie detection. Female witnesses were randomly assigned to lie or tell the truth while remaining unveiled or while wearing a hijab (i.e., a head veil) or a niqab (i.e., a face veil). In Study 1, laypersons in Canada (N = 232) were more accurate at detecting deception in witnesses who wore niqabs or hijabs than in those who did not wear veils. Concealing portions of witnesses' faces led laypersons to change their decision-making strategies without eliciting negative biases. Lie detection results were partially replicated in Study 2, with laypersons in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands (N = 291): observers' performance was better when witnesses wore either niqabs or hijabs than when witnesses did not wear veils. These findings suggest that, contrary to judicial opinion, niqabs do not interfere with - and may, in fact, improve - the ability to detect deception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-410
Number of pages10
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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