A toss of the dice reveals the truth

Aug 02, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers show how a simple toss of the dice can help to bring out honest answers when people are asked difficult questions.

The research, led by Julia Jones and Freya St John from Bangor University in the United Kingdom is being used in South Africa to question ranchers regarding the killing of protected leopards.

Getting people to admit that they have done something illegal is notoriously difficult, but this new method has created a way that seems to make the respondents more comfortable in revealing the truth.

When a person is being questioned, they are first given a simple dice. They are told that before answering a question, they must throw the dice and that the researcher would not be able to see what number is rolled. If they throw a number one, they must respond to the question with ‘no.’ If they throw a number six, they must respond with the answer ‘yes.’ All other numbers they are to answer the question with a truthful answer.

With this little catch, a respondent’s ‘yes’ answer may not always be ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ may not always be a ‘no.’ Because of this fact, respondents seem to be more willing to give truthful answers when the numbers two through five are rolled.

The researchers have also tested this randomized response technique with suspected drug users and compared question results with hair sample drug screening tests and found that they get much more accurate results from the respondents that are administered questions using the dice method.

The method is being used in , not to criminalize ranchers for killing the leopards, but to help target conservation efforts. In areas where ranchers are likely to kill these animals, compensation may be provided to ranchers who have lost livestock due to the predators.

Explore further: Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

More information: "Identifying indicators of illegal behaviour: carnivore killing in human-managed landscapes," Proc. R. Soc. B July 27, 2011. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1228

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User comments : 6

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1 / 5 (1) Aug 02, 2011
There was a similar trick employed, using cards this time, on US army personnel in i think the Korean War, asking whether or not they smoked dope. I can't find a reference for it though.
5 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2011
Note to the editor: the singular form of 'dice' is 'die' ...
1 / 5 (1) Aug 02, 2011
I think they were using "Rolling The Dice" as a metaphor; Would I be right in assuming that the police officers did not actually use dice... If they did, then they would probably not pass the test in the first place.
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2011
I've used this technique on myself for about 15 years now. Suppose that I want to choose between a cup of chocolate ice cream and a coke. I get out a coin, select which choice is heads, and flip the coin. If I start to argue with myself or have second thoughts about the outcome of the coin flip, then I know what my subconcious really wanted.
not rated yet Aug 03, 2011
Quite a clever trick.
I agree MRBlizzard, even the thought of tossing a coin to decide which option to choose will often show me which option I really want to choose.
not rated yet Aug 03, 2011
I hope that when you win that next argument with yourself you don't hold a grudge or use loaded dice the next time because you've got no one to blame but yourself.