Othello error

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Othello error occurs when a suspicious observer discounts cues of truthfulness, given the observer's need to conform his/her observations of suspicions of deception. Essentially the Othello error occurs, Paul Ekman states, "when the lie catcher fails to consider that a truthful person who is under stress may appear to be lying"[1] - their non-verbal signals expressing their worry at the possibility of being disbelieved.[2] A lie-detector may be deceived in the same way, by misinterpreting nervous signals from a truthful person.[3]

The term relates to the Shakespeare play in which Othello misinterprets Desdemona's reaction to Cassio's death.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ekman, P. Telling Lies (1985)
  2. ^ K. D. Harrison, Forensic Interviewing (2013) p. 76
  3. ^ K. Fiedler, Social Communication (2011) p. 327