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How to Tell If Someone Is Lying in a Text

Call it digital deception.

Have you ever traded a flurry of text messages with someone when suddenly there is an awkward pause? This should make you suspicious. Very suspicious. Chances are high you're being told a lie.

Researchers from Brigham Young University, the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Arizona have identified three specific actions that occur when someone is lying in a text message, instant message or social media:

    1. Take longer to respond.
    2. Make more edits.
    3. Write shorter responses than usual.

"Digital conversations are a fertile ground for deception because people can easily conceal their identity and their messages often appear credible," explains lead study author Tom Meservy, a BYU professor of information systems.

Humans are terrible at detecting lies! Specifically, we only figure out if someone is lying about 54 percent of the time, which isn't much better than a coin flip. And 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.

The study: The team created a computer program 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 United States and one in the southwestern United States, had conversations with the computer, which asked them 30 questions each. The participants were told to lie in about half of their responses.

The results: Responses filled with lies took 10 percent longer to create and were edited more than truthful messages. They were also much shorter than was typical.

"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."

The study findings were published in the journal ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems.

--From the Editors at Netscape

 
 
 
 
  
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