Science-based link between tech and lying

Expertise has given folks extra methods to attach, however has it additionally given them extra alternatives to lie?

You would possibly textual content your pal a white misinform get out of going to dinner, exaggerate your peak on a relationship profile to appear more attractive, or invent an excuse to your boss over e mail to save face.

Social psychologists and communication students have lengthy puzzled not simply who lies probably the most, however the place folks are likely to lie probably the most—that’s, in individual or by another communication medium.


A seminal 2004 study was among the many first to research the connection between deception charges and know-how. Since then, the methods we talk have shifted—fewer cellphone calls and extra social media messaging, for instance—and I needed to see how nicely earlier outcomes held up.

The link between deception and know-how

Again in 2004, communication researcher Jeff Hancock and his colleagues had 28 college students report the variety of social interactions that they had by way of face-to-face communication, the cellphone, instantaneous messaging, and e mail over seven days. College students additionally reported the variety of occasions they lied in every social interplay.

The outcomes prompt folks instructed probably the most lies per social interplay on the cellphone. The fewest have been instructed by way of e mail.

The findings aligned with a framework Hancock known as the “feature-based model.” In keeping with this mannequin, particular elements of a know-how—whether or not folks can talk again and forth seamlessly, whether or not the messages are fleeting and whether or not communicators are distant—predict the place folks are likely to lie probably the most.

In Hancock’s research, probably the most lies per social interplay occurred by way of the know-how with all of those options: the cellphone. The fewest occurred on e mail, the place folks couldn’t talk synchronously and the messages have been recorded.

The Hancock Research, revisited

When Hancock performed his research, only students at a few select universities may create a Fb account. The iPhone was in its early levels of growth, a extremely confidential mission nicknamed Project Purple.


What would his outcomes appear to be almost 20 years later?

In a new study, I recruited a bigger group of individuals and studied interactions from extra types of know-how. A complete of 250 folks recorded their social interactions and variety of interactions with a lie over seven days, throughout face-to-face communication, social media, the cellphone, texting, video chat and e mail.

As in Hancock’s research, folks instructed probably the most lies per social interplay over media that have been synchronous and recordless and when communicators have been distant: over the cellphone or on video chat. They instructed the fewest lies per social interplay by way of e mail. Apparently, although, the variations throughout the types of communication have been small. Variations amongst individuals—how a lot folks diversified of their lying tendencies—have been extra predictive of deception charges than variations amongst media.

Regardless of adjustments in the best way folks talk over the previous twenty years—together with methods the COVID-19 pandemic modified how people socialize—folks appear to lie systematically and in alignment with the feature-based mannequin.

There are a number of attainable explanations for these outcomes, although extra work is required to grasp precisely why completely different media result in completely different lying charges. It’s attainable that sure media are higher facilitators of deception than others. Some media—the cellphone, video chat—would possibly make deception really feel simpler or less expensive to a social relationship if caught.

Deception charges may additionally differ throughout know-how as a result of folks use some types of know-how for sure social relationships. For instance, folks would possibly solely e mail their skilled colleagues, whereas video chat is perhaps a greater match for extra private relationships.

Expertise misunderstood

To me, there are two key takeaways.

First, there are, total, small variations in lying charges throughout media. A person’s tendency to lie issues greater than whether or not somebody is emailing or speaking on the cellphone.

Second, there’s a low fee of lying throughout the board. Most individuals are trustworthy—a premise in step with truth-default theory, which suggests most individuals report being trustworthy more often than not and there are just a few prolific liars in a inhabitants.

Since 2004, social media have develop into a main place for interacting with other people. But a standard misperception persists that speaking on-line or by way of know-how, versus in individual, results in social interactions which might be lower in quantity and quality.


Folks typically imagine that simply because we use know-how to work together, honesty is tougher to come back by and customers aren’t nicely served.

Not solely is that this notion misguided, however it is usually unsupported by empirical proof. The belief that lying is rampant within the digital age simply doesn’t match the info.