Othello attacking Desdemona
An Othello error is the misperception that a person who is being truthful, is lying due to the natural anxiety and discomfort experienced by a normal person in response to aggressive interrogation, especially by the police.
A truthful person may, under some circumstances, be afraid of being disbelieved or perceived as guilty, or manifesting delight–e.g., that an enemy has met an untimely death, completely unrelated to the truthful person’s actions. It is important to examine the circumstances, and evaluate whether or not a truthful or lying person would be experiencing these emotions. The term refers to Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Othello, who assumed that his wife’s Desdemona’s manifestations of fear in response to his interrogation was a sign of lying. Othello’s error must be distinguished from the Othello syndrome.
Synonym Othello effect, Othello’s error
Reference Ekman, Paul, Lying and Perception (Chapter 14), in Stein—NL, Ornstein—PA, et al Memory for Everyday and Emotional Events (1997), Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers