Ever been trading a flurry of text messages
when there's an awkward pause? Well, new research shows you probably should be
A Brigham Young University study finds when
people lie in digital messages – texting, social media or instant messaging –
they take longer to respond, make more edits and write shorter responses than
"Digital conversations are a fertile
ground for deception because people can easily conceal their identity and their
messages often appear credible," says Tom Meservy, BYU professor of
information systems. "Unfortunately, humans are terrible at detecting
deception. We're creating methods to correct that."
to tell if someone’s lying
According to Meservy, humans can detect
lies about 54% of the time accurately – not much better than a coin flip. It's
even harder to tell when someone is lying through a digital message because you
can't hear a voice or see an expression.
With the many financial, security and
personal safety implications of digital deception, Meservy and fellow BYU
professor Jeffrey Jenkins, along with colleagues at the University of
Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Arizona, set up an experimental instrument
that tracked possible cues of online lying.
The researchers created a computer programme
that carried out online conversations with participants – similar to the
experience consumers have with online customer service questions.
More than 100 students from two large
universities, one in the southeastern US and one in the southwestern US, had
conversations with the computer, which asked them 30 questions each.
The participants were told to lie in about
half of their responses. The researchers found responses filled with lies took
10% longer to create and were edited more than truthful messages.
"We are starting to identify signs
given off by individuals that aren't easily tracked by humans," Meservy
said. "The potential is that chat-based systems could be created to track
deception in real-time."
and human behaviour
The findings appear online in the academic
information systems journal ACM
Transactions on Management Information Systems.
Meservy and Jenkins, who coauthored the
study, said we shouldn't automatically assume someone is lying if they take
longer to respond, but the study does provide some general patterns.
The researchers are furthering this line of
research by using a variety of other sensors including Microsoft's Kinect to
track human behaviour and see how it connects with deception.
"We are just at the beginning of
this," Jenkins said. "We need to collect a lot more data."