People prefer to lie using altered truthful events from memory, perhaps because doing so can increase their credibility while reducing cognitive and working memory (WM) load. One possible way to counter such deceptive behavior is to track WM usage, since fabricating coherent lies or managing between truth and lies is likely to involve heavy WM load. In this study, participants memorized a list of words in the study session and used these old words to provide deceptive answers when cued later, in the testing session. Our behavioral results showed that people needed more time to make a deceptive response during the execution stage, and this prolonged deceptive reaction time (RT) was negatively correlated with each participant’s WM capacity. Event-related potential findings showed a more negative-going frontal amplitude between the lie and truth conditions during the preparation stage, suggesting that WM preparatory processes can be detected long before a deceptive response is verbalized. Furthermore, we observed a larger positive frontal-central amplitude during the execution stage, which was negatively correlated with participants’ lie–truth RT differences, suggesting that participants’ efficiency in producing deceptive responses can be readily traced electrophysiologically. Together, these findings suggest that WM capacity and preparation are crucial to efficient lying and that their related electrophysiological signatures can potentially be used to uncover deceptive behaviors.
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