Computer Laboratory

Dr. Sophie Van Der Zee

Security Group


I am a post-doctoral researcher in the Security Group of Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory, working on the Deterrence of Deception project led by Prof. Ross Anderson. This project is aimed at understanding how deception in online settings is different from face-to-face lying, and how we can utilize this information to prevent people from lying. In addition to my work as a post-doctoral researcher in Cambridge, I also hold two honorary Research Fellowships. I am a College Research Associate at King's College, Cambridge, and together with my colleague David Modic I work on a research project on identifying victims and perpetrators of Internet Fraud: To deceive or be deceived. The second Honorary Research Fellowship concerns another practical application of social psychology research. Within the Department of Medical and Sport Sciences at Cumbria University in the UK, I am involved in Health Psychology related research on topics such as pain perception and self-image.

I hold a PhD in Forensic and Social Psychology from Lancaster University (UK), completed under the supervision of Prof. Paul J. Taylor and Dr. Lara Warmelink. For my PhD project I used motion capture equipment to measure if nonverbal mimicry is affected by lying. Previous education includes a Master's degree in Psychology and Law (Honors/Cum Laude) from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and a Bachelor degree in Social Psychology from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

My research focuses on different aspects of deception. During my PhD I investigated the interpersonal aspects of lying measured automatically using motion capture equipment. Combining technology and forensic psychology has introduced me to the benefits of interdisciplinary research and I extended this approach during my post-doc research. Currently, in addition to detecting deceit, I am interested in the more fundamental question of why people lie. The aim is to disentangle which factors contribute to a person’s decision to lie, and consequently, to test if this information can be used to deter people from lying. An application area for this research is understanding how we can reduce fraud.

Decepticon 2015: International Conference on Deceptive Behavior

Together with an amazing scientific and local committee, I am organizing the first interdisciplinary conference on deceptive behavior. Previously, deception research has been fragmented across conferences in many different disciplines, sub-disciplines and countries, and the aim of Decepticon 2015 is to bring all those practitioners and academics together. Topics that will be discussed include verbal and nonverbal cues to deception, interview techniques, use of technology to detect deception (e.g., polygraph, fMRI, EEG, eye-trackers and motion capture suits), preventing deception and deterring fraud, cultural differences, border-control, lying about intentions, self-deception, malingering and socially acceptable lying (e.g., poker, magic and white lies). The conference will take place 24-26 of August 2015 in Cambridge (UK). Unfortunately, the submission deadline has passed; we received the impressive number of 105 submissions, but of course you can still registerto attend the conference and listen to all these inspiring talks.

Current Research Projects

  • To freeze or not to freeze - A motion-capture approach to detecting deceit.
  • Deceitful Eyes? - Can saccadic eye-movement be used to detect deceit?
  • Deceptiveness Scale Construction - Are some people more deceptive than others?
  • Real Estate Scams - How scammers are renting out apartments they do not own
  • Non-native liars - How does lying in a second language change people's behavior?
  • Can a bad example be good for you? - How does watching tv programs such as Britain's Biggest Loser affect people's self-image and eating behavior?

Previous Research Projects

  • Restoring the Balance - Do feelings of unfairness affect lie tendency?
  • Automated Measurement and Analysis of Body motion (AMAB) - Tired of coding videos? Good news! We created a method to automatically measure human behaviour with the use of motion capture equipment.
  • A liar and a copy cat - How is nonverbal mimicry affected by lying?
  • Deception across borders - How does cultural background affect the telling and detecting of lies?
  • Don't give in! - What affect does immersion in sporting culture have on preferred pain endurance in others?

Media coverage

Our research on automatically detecting deception based on body movements received quite some media attention, including English videos by Dailymotion and Fox, Dutch videos by Zoomin TV, WNL Vandaag TV, and RTL Boulevard TV (NL), radio coverage on BBC's Naked Scientists (UK), BBC World Radio (UK), Radio538 (NL) and Radio 2 (NL), newspaper articles in The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Daily Mail (UK), Cambridge News (UK), The Register Mail & Guardian (SA), NRC (NL), Algemeen Dagblad (NL), Volkskrant (NL), KIJK (NL), 7days (kids magazine, NL), Trouw (NL), BNR (NL), Nieuws (NL), RTV Utrecht (NL), De Morgen (BE) HLN (BE), and we were mentioned on several websites such as Bruce Schneier's Blog, International Business Times, Computer World UK, Engadget, Techie News, PC World, News Nation, Tumblr, My Science, TweakTown, ABP Live & Lancaster University King's College Cambridge, and Xsens Customer Case.


Currently under review: 3 journal papers

Van Der Zee, S., Poppe, R., Taylor, P. J., & Anderson, R. (2015). To freeze or not to freeze: A motion-capture approach to detecting deception. HICSS 2015, proceedings Credibility Assessment and Information Quality in Government and Business sympoisum. PDF, Program & Blogged abstracts.

Poppe, R., Van Der Zee, S., Taylor, P. J., Anderson, R., & Veltkamp, R. C. (2015). Mining bodily cues to deception. HICSS 2015, proceedings Credibility Assessment and Information Quality in Government and Business sympoisum. PDF, Program & Blogged abstracts.

Poppe, R., Van Der Zee, S., Heylen, D., & Taylor, P. J. (2014). AMAB: Automated measurement and analysis of body motion. Behavior Research Methods, 46, 625-633. doi: 10.3758/s13428-013-0398-y. PDF

Van Der Zee, S. (2013). The effect of cognitive load on nonverbal mimicry in interview settings (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Lancaster, UK: Lancaster University.

Taylor, P. J., Larner, S., Conchie, S. M., & Van Der Zee, S. (2014). Cross-cultural deception detection. In P. A. Granhag, A. Vrij, & B. Verschuere (Eds.), Deception detection: Current challenges and cognitive approaches (pp. 175-202). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Conference Presentations, Workshops and Academic Talks

Radio program "Whodunnit? Fascinating Forensics", "The world's first lie detector suit", BBC's The Naked Scientists, Cambridge, UK (2015). Podcast.

Invited talk, "Are our own thoughts still private? Computers that read your mind", National Association of Data Protection Officers (NADPO), Leicester, UK (2015).

Invited talk, "How forensic psychology can benefit from new technology", Hills Road Sixth Form, Cambridge, UK (2015).

Oral presentation, "To freeze or not to freeze: A motion-capture approach to detecting deceit", 49th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), Kauai, Hawaii, US (2015). Program & Blogged abstracts.

Two MOOC e-lectures, "Prospect Theory" and "Heuristics and Social Persuasion", part of the course "Economics of Cybersecurity": , Cambridge, UK (2014). Lecture Prospect Theory & Lecture Heuristics and Social Persuasion

Oral Presentation, "How transparency can help decrease insurance fraud", Women@CL, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK (2014).

Two Minute Madness Presentation, "The detection and deterrence of deception", the Museum for Computing History, Cambridge, UK (2014).

Oral Conference Presentation, "Restoring the Balance: How feelings of injustice affect lie tendency", the European Association of Psychology and Law (EAPL) 2014 conference, St. Petersburg, Russia (2014). Program & Blogged abstracts.

Oral Workshop Presentation, "When lying feels the right thing to do", Workshop on Security and Human Behaviour (SHB) 2014, Cambridge, UK (2014). Program, Blogged abstracts & Audio recordings.

Minute Madness presentation, “Optimal gaming performance: Does drunk-driving also increase accident rates when playing computer games?”, Celebration of 10 years Women in the Computer Laboratory , University of Cambridge, UK (2014).

Seminar Talk, "Forensic psychology and computing: Friend or foe?", Forensic Psychology Reading Group, Cambridge University, UK (2014).

Invited Talk, “Bringing Hollywood into the interrogation room: How forensic psychology can benefit from technological advances”, Psychology department, University of Bedfordshire, UK (2014).

Workshop for a selected group of FBI personnel, “Tracking suspects: How motion capture techniques can be used during interviews”, Psychology department, Lancaster University, UK (2013).

Oral Conference Presentation as part of a symposium on “The role of interpersonal behaviour in detecting deception”, “Nonverbal mimicry increases in second-language interviews”, the European Association of Psychology and Law (EAPL) 2013 conference, Coventry, UK (2013).

Poster Presentation as part of the Symposium organized for the inaugural lecture of Prof. Paul Taylor, “Nonverbal mimicry to reveal deceit”, University of Twente, the Netherlands (2013).

Invited Talk for the High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch National Police Services, “Bringing Hollywood to the interrogation room”, Driebergen, the Netherlands (2013).

Oral Conference Presentation as part of a symposium, “The role of interpersonal behaviour in modern policing", "Mimicry as a cue to deception in cross-cultural interactions”, American Society of Criminology (ASC) 2012 conference, Chicago, US (2012).

Oral Presentation Summer School, “Discussing the impact of interview styles on mimicry as a cue to deceit”, Lancaster University, UK (2012).

Interactive Poster Presentation, “Using motion-capture equipment for psychological research”, Opening event of Security Lancaster, Lancaster University, UK (2012).

Oral Conference Presentation, “Nonverbal mimicry increases when deceiving - particularly when responding to reverse-order questioning”, the European Association of Psychology and Law (EAPL) 2012 conference, Nicosia, Cyprus (2012).

Poster Presentation, “Nonverbal mimicry as a cue to deceit”, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) 2012 conference, San Diego, US (2012).

Poster Presentation, “Nonverbal mimicry increases when lying”, Annual Departmental PGR conference, Lancaster University, UK (2011).

Oral Conference Presentation, “Nonverbal mimicry increases when lying”, PhD Deception Conference 2011, Lancaster University, UK (2011).

Oral Presentation Summer School, “Nonverbal mimicry”, University of Twente, the Netherlands (2011).

Poster Presentation, “Nonverbal mimicry as a cue to deceit”, international Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG) 2011 conference, Dundee, UK (2011).


Best paper award, EAPL-S, 'Nonverbal mimicry increases in second-language interviews', EAPL 2013 conference, Coventry, UK (2013).


Currently under review: 2 grant proposals and 2 fellowship applications

Travel grant, £350, Faculty of Science and Technology, Lancaster University, UK (2012). Grant was used to visit the ACS conference in Chicago, US in November 2012

Travel grant, £350, Faculty of Science and Technology, Lancaster University, UK (2011). Grant was used to visit the SPSP conference in San Diego, US in January 2011

Review and Panel work

Post-doc representative for Women in Computer Science (Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK)

Reviewer for Legal and Criminological Psychology

Reviewer for Psychology, Public Policy, and Law

Member of panel judging posters at the Oxbridge Women in Computer Science Meeting 2014, Cambridge University, UK (2014)

Organized events

Main organizer and member of scientific committee of Decepticon 2015: International Conference on Deceptive Behavior (24-26 August 2015, Cambridge, UK)

Local organizer for Security and Human Behavior Workshop 2014, (SHB; Cambridgem UK)

Main organizer of a two-day deception conference for British and Dutch PhD students (2011, Lancaster University, UK)

Student projects

Interested in using eye-tracking equipment in an applied way? I am looking for an MSc/MPhil student who would like to find out if we can use saccadic eye-movement to detect deception. Please contact me if you're interested in conducting experimental research and write your dissertation on this topic. Email: sophie.van-der-zee|AT|

Contact Details

Dr. Sophie Van Der Zee
University of Cambridge
The Computer Laboratory
15 JJ Thomson Avenue
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

Office: GC13, William Gates Building, Cambridge University
Phone: +44 1223 763 792
Email: sophie.van-der-zee|AT|