Veritas: “The Truth About Lies”

Brandon Gallegos

On average, a person will exchange at least two lies a day. One report assessed that up to 27% of face to face conversations contained a lie, and nearly a third of phone calls involved some form of deceit. As technology advances, we are provided with many new forms of communication. With these new media come growing concerns from social scientists on how and when deception occurs. Of the most popular theories, researchers speculate that due to the discomfort often felt when telling a lie; a person is more likely to lie in a medium that doesn’t give many cues (e.g., voice and body language) to their deceit. This would be phone calls, IMs, text messages, and any other form of indirect communication. Other theories, however, argue that people tend to lie when they can use those cues to their advantage – like keeping eye contact when speaking or attempting a good poker face.

Some feature-based models separate communication into synchronicity (live feedback), distribution (how many people involved in the conversation), and record (if a record of the conversation will be kept). In one of the largest undertakings of evaluating these models, Dr. Monica T. Whitty and others reached out to over one hundred undergraduate students across the UK to answer a few questions about how and when we lie. Whitty and her team wanted to know the levels of planned lies versus spontaneous lies, how serious those lies were, whether they were self-oriented or other oriented, and what the relationship with the target of the lie was. The researchers asked participants to record a daily journal and report of their communication. These online reports asked questions like: “How planned was the lie?” and “How serious was the lie?” The data gathered showed communication levels anywhere from 42 to 333 interactions a day. The analysis of data unveiled that people were more likely to lie on the telephone (voice call) than any other medium, followed shortly by face to face interactions.

Although digital modes of communication were the least likely medium for people to lie over, SMS or text messaging was the most popular for people to tell planned lies, which were reported to be more serious than spontaneous lies. Additionally, Whitty found people are likely to lie when the person they are talking to is either very removed or very close to their everyday lives. With that, most other-oriented lies (lies about someone else) were told to the closer relationships and self-oriented lies (about oneself) being told to strangers. If you are looking for the best record of truth, try to use email or other forms of communication that is easy to keep record of. It is believed that having time to think about what is being said pushes people toward being truthful. On the other hand, if a person would rather talk to you on the phone, you are most likely to run into small and spontaneous lies. Be the most aware of planned and large lies in the form of text messages from people you either know really well or have just met.

*Whitty, M. T., Buchanan, T., Joinson, A. N., & Meredith, A. (2012). Not all lies are spontaneous: An examination of deception across different modes of communication. Journal Of The American Society For Information Science & Technology, 63(1), 208-216. doi:10.1002/asi.21648 is powered by WordPress µ | Spam prevention powered by Akismet