Texts, lies and communicate

Communication is a difficult enough thing at the best of times. When someone says, “It was really nice to meet you” but at the same time winks at you … what do they mean? What about when you’ve just made a brilliantly incisive point in the meeting but Gary, across the table from you, never looks up from doodling on his notepad as he says, “That’s a great idea”? Determining what people mean and when they are telling the truth can be a difficult business even when they are right there in front of you. Now that we can communicate so easily by remote device things can be even more problematic. Thank goodness then that a new study has found out how to tell when someone is lying to you via text message.

Estimates are that humans can tell when someone is lying to them face to face about 54 per cent of the time …not much better than chance. When the communication is via text message the degree of difficulty in detecting dissembling increases exponentially. So to try and help us all out researchers created a computer program that carried out an online conversation with the subjects in the study.

The computer asked the subject 30 questions. The subjects had been told to lie in their responses around 50 per cent of the time. What emerged from analysing the responses was that lying responses took about 10 per cent longer to create and were edited more heavily than truthful responses. So if you are exchanging text messages with someone in real time and the answer comes back just a bit too slowly and is more perfectly worded than others it could just be that your correspondent isn’t being entirely truthful.

Naturally this is not a foolproof method as your text partner might have fallen down the stairs or been mauled by an enraged wombat causing their delayed response. Still, it is better than nothing. Of course the ultimate scientific test to detect whether someone is lying is that their pants will be on fire. On the phone, unfortunately, you can’t tell whether a person has trousers that are combusting when they are texting… Or could it be that, after all, it is flames in their nether regions that are the cause of the lying pause?

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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