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Friday, May 8, 2009

If You Have to Lie, Don't Do it Face to Face

No real surprise here: People are better at lying online than in the real world, according to new research by Michael Woodworth, a forensic psychologist at the University of British Columbia Okanagan who studies digital deception. “When people are interacting face to face, there is something called the ‘motivational impairment effect,’ where your body will give off some cues as you become more nervous and there’s more at stake with your lie,” he says. “In a computer-mediated environment, the exact opposite occurs.”
In other words, you're more likely to be caught lying in the real world because—unlike in a text message or email—nonverbal cues can give you away. The pitch of your voice changes or you make certain facial expressions.
“On average," says Woodworth, "people tell one to two lies a day, and these lies range from the trivial to the more serious." Learning how to better detect deceit online, he says, "will certainly have important implications in organizational contexts, both legal and illegal, in the political domain, and in family life as more and more children go online.” —Heather Wax