Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why People Are Better At Lying Online Than Telling A Lie Face-to-face

May 5, 2009
University of British Columbia
In the digital world, it's easier to tell a lie and get away with it. That's good news for liars, but not so good for anyone being deceived.

Michael Woodworth is developing new ideas about why people are better at lying online than telling a lie face-to-face.
Credit: Photo by Tim Swanky

In the digital world, it’s easier to tell a lie and get away with it. That’s good news for liars, but not so good for anyone being deceived.

Related Articles

Michael Woodworth, a forensic psychologist at UBC Okanagan studying deception in computer-mediated environments, says offering up a fib in person might make you provide certain signals that you’re trying to deceive, but lying online avoids the physical cues that can give you away.

“When people are interacting face to face, there is something called the ‘motivational impairment effect,’ where your body will give off some cues as you become more nervous and there’s more at stake with your lie,” says Woodworth. “In a computer-mediated environment, the exact opposite occurs.”

The motivational enhancement effect – a term coined by Woodworth and colleague Jeff Hancock from Cornell University – describes how people motivated to lie in a computer-mediated environment are not only less likely to be detected, they are also actually better at being deceptive than people who are less motivated.

When telling a lie face-to-face, the higher the stakes of your deception, the more cues you may give out that you’re lying. So, what isn’t in a text message may have advantages for a would-be deceiver: text doesn’t transmit non-verbal cues such as vocal properties, physical gestures, and facial expressions.

Woodworth’s research is very timely as technology and deceptive practices converge.

“Deception is one of the most significant and pervasive social phenomena of our age,” says Woodworth. “On average, people tell one to two lies a day, and these lies range from the trivial to the more serious. Deception lies in communication between friends, family, colleagues and in power and politics.”

Woodworth began his exploration by looking at how to detect deception in face-to-face environments. But he soon recognized the invasion of information and communication technologies into nearly all aspects of our lives was an opportunity to study how technology affects “digital deception” – defined as any type of technologically mediated message transmitted to create a false belief in the receiver of the message.

“Given the prevalence of both deception and communication technology in our personal and professional lives, an important set of concerns have emerged about how technology affects digital deception,” says Woodworth. He points out a growing number of individuals are falling prey to deceptive practices and information received through computer mediated contexts such as the Internet

“By learning more about how various factors affect detecting deceit in online communication, our research will certainly have important implications in organizational contexts, both legal and illegal, in the political domain, and in family life as more and more children go online.”

Common threads detected in psychopath texts

Michael Woodworth’s research at UBC Okanagan goes beyond deception. He also studies the personality disorder of psychopathy, looking at what secrets can be gleaned from the language used by psychopaths who have killed.

After interviewing dozens of psychopaths and non-psychopaths convicted of murder, Woodworth and colleagues used electronic linguistics analysis to automatically process the interview transcripts, paying attention to the appearance of certain words, parts of speech (verbs, adjectives, nouns), and semantics – for example, looking at how often certain topics came up.

The results were revealing.

“In the transcripts of psychopathic offenders, we found twice as many terms related to eating, and 58 per cent more references to money,” says Woodworth. “And the psychopaths were significantly more likely to discuss both clothing and drinking while discussing their homicide, compared to non-psychopathic offenders.”

Woodworth has now teamed with noted forensic psychologist and deception researcher Stephen Porter, who joined UBC Okanagan from Dalhousie University last summer, and fellow forensic psychologist Jan Cioe to build a multi-disciplinary forensic science graduate program and research centre at UBC Okanagan.

Bringing together prominent forensic psychologists will benefit both the academic and wider communities, says Woodworth.

“In the back of my mind I’m always thinking ‘how is this going to potentially have some applied value?’ whether it be the community in general, or specifically for law enforcement, or by furthering our knowledge within a certain area,” he says. “All of these applications ultimately assist with both assessment and treatment.”

This research is supported by a grant of $87,055 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. The original article was written by Raina Ducklow and Bud Mortenson. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Why People Are Better At Lying Online Than Telling A Lie Face-to-face." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090503203738.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2009, May 5). Why People Are Better At Lying Online Than Telling A Lie Face-to-face. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090503203738.htm
University of British Columbia. "Why People Are Better At Lying Online Than Telling A Lie Face-to-face." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090503203738.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

PlayStation Now Smart TV App

PlayStation Now Smart TV App

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) PlayStation Now Smart TV app is coming soon and will be available on both Sony and Samsung HDTV, allowing you to play games without even a counsel! Check out the video for more info. Credit to &apos;booredatwork&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
WikiLeaks Accuses Google of Handing Over Emails to US

WikiLeaks Accuses Google of Handing Over Emails to US

AFP (Jan. 27, 2015) Whistleblowing site WikiLeaks accused Google of handing over the emails and electronic data of its senior staff to the US authorities without providing notification until almost three years later. Duration: 01:09 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) A Texas woman who lost more than five pounds of flesh to a shark in the Bahamas earlier this month could be released from a Florida hospital soon. Experts believe she was bitten by a bull shark while snorkeling. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cablevision Enters Wi-Fi Phone Fray

Cablevision Enters Wi-Fi Phone Fray

Reuters - Business Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) The entry by Cablevision and Google could intensify the already heated price wars for mobile phone service. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins