Wondering if that fabulous man you’ve been chatting with online is really a mountain-climbing astronaut fluent in six languages, including Latin?
By Diane Mapes
According to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, chances are he’s simply one of the many people who can’t help stretching the truth when they hit the keyboard.
“I wouldn’t say that human beings are a big pack of liars,” says Robert S. Feldman, professor of psychology and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “But I would say that it’s very easy to lie.”
This is especially true when we go online, according to Feldman’s research. In a new paper entitled “Liar, Liar, Hard Drive on Fire: How Media Context Affects Lying Behavior,” Feldman found that the closer people are to each other, the more difficult it is to lie to each other. And the further apart we are, the more the lies fly.
In his most recent study, Feldman (who’s studied deception for about 30 years) put together 110 same-sex pairs of University of Massachusetts students, asking them to “get to know each other” for approximately 15 minutes. One group of students talked face-to-face, another chatted via IM and the last emailed back and forth. Then Feldman asked the students to go over a transcript (or recording) of the conversation and identity each time an untruth even a white lie was told.
“At first, almost everybody said there are no cases where [they weren’t] being truthful,” he says. “So we said, humor us. Eventually, what happened was that 70 percent of the people found something they said was not accurate. It was a lie. And the rate of lying was about three times greater for email than it was for face-to-face conversation.”