Liars Take Longer To Respond While Texting
September 5, 2013

Liars Take Longer To Respond While Texting

Peter Suciu for – Your Universe Online

The debate remains on how effectively lying can be detected, and there have even been studies that suggest that unlike Pinocchio, people do not usually offer telltale signs that they are being dishonest.

However, a new study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University, the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Arizona have found that people who lie while texting may take longer to respond. This is reportedly also true for digital conversations on social media and instant messaging.

In other words, when there is a flurry of text messages back and forth but then suddenly an awkward pause, it could be a sign that someone isn’t being truthful.

The findings of this research were published in the journal ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems.

This study found that when people lie in digital messages – whether it be texting, social media exchanges or instant messaging – there could be a pause. This could mean that they are taking longer to respond, making edits or even writing 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,” said Tom Meservy, BYU professor of information systems, in a statement. “Unfortunately, humans are terrible at detecting deception. We're creating methods to correct that.”

Meservy and his colleagues concluded that humans can detect lies about 54 percent of the time accurately, which isn’t all that much better than a coin flip. It is actually harder to tell when someone is lying through most digital messages because it isn’t possible to hear their voice or see an expression.

To this end, Mesrvy and fellow BYU professor Jeffrey Jenkins, along with colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Arizona, looked into determining how one might be able to tell if someone is lying during digital communications.

There are many financial, security and personal safety implications of digital deception; and the researchers sought to set up ways to track possible cues of online lying. The team created a computer program that carried out online conversations with participants, and this was designed to be similar to the experience consumers have with online customer service questions.

The study looked at the results from 100 students at two large universities - one in the southeastern United States and one in the southwestern US – where these participants had conversations with the computer that consisted of 30 questions.

The participants were told to lie in about half of their responses, and the researchers found that those responses that were filled with lies typically took 10 percent longer to create and were edited more than truthful messages.

“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.”

However, the researchers said that this doesn’t mean anyone should automatically assume someone is lying if they take longer to respond, but the study does provide some general patterns. The researchers are furthering this line of research by using a variety of other sensors, including Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360 game console, to track human behavior to see how it might connect with deception.

Jenkins noted that more data still needs to be collected.

In the meantime, those who want to tell whether someone is lying should look at their health. A study conducted by the University of Notre Dame last year that was looking at liars found they might have worse mental and physical health.