People lie more in texts

Be suspicious when your partner texts to say she’s working late at the office: people are more likely to lie in a text than in any other form of communication, researchers say.

David Xu, assistant professor in the W Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University, examined just how deceitful people were prepared to be face-to-face, by video, by audio or text chatting.

Researchers promised their 170 subjects cash awards of up to $50 to carry out mock stock transactions. ‘Brokers’ were promised increased cash rewards for more stock sales, while ‘buyers’ were told their cash reward would depend on the yet-to-be-determined value of the stock.

The brokers, though, were given inside knowledge that the stock was rigged to lose half of its value. Buyers were informed of this fact after the mock sales transaction, and were asked to report whether the brokers had employed deceit to sell their stock.

The authors then analyzed which forms of communication led to more deception.

And it’s video, it seems, that’s the most trustworthy form of communication. Buyers who received information via text messages were 95 percent more likely to report deception than if they’d interacted via video, 31 percent more likely when compared to face-to-face, and 18 percent more likely if the interaction was via audio chat.

The fact that people were less likely to lie via video than in person is surprising, says Xu – but makes sense, given the so-called ‘spotlight’ effect, where a person feels they’re being watched more closely on video than face-to-face.

Xu suggests that the research has implications for consumers to avoid problems such as online fraud, and for businesses looking to promote trust and build a good image. Of course, it could also help fraudsters who want to be a bit more persuasive.