Man Hand writing Truth or Lies with black marker on visual screen

Culture affects how people lie

You know someone is lying to you when they use different words they don’t normally use.

When someone lies there are subtle changes in their language which can be easily distinguished. Liars tend to use more negations, fewer first person pronouns and they provide less contextual information than truth tellers.

But this understanding is based on previous studies on Western liars.

Science knows that people’s use of language changes when they lie –  but are these prevalent belief’s about what the change looks like true for all cultures?

The researchers found that Western liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns like “I” than statements made by truth- tellers. This is a common finding and believed to happen because liars want to distance themselves from the lie.

Researchers from Lancaster University in the UK decided to investigate the role of cultural background in how people’s language changes when they lie.

For this study, 320 participants of Black African, South Asian, White European and White British ethnicity completed a Catch-the-Liar task in which they provided genuine and false statements about their past experiences or an opinion and counter-opinion.

The researchers found that Western liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns like “I” than statements made by truth- tellers. This is a common finding and believed to happen because liars want to distance themselves from the lie.

However, the researchers did not find this difference in the lies of Black African and South Asian participants. Instead, they increased the use of first person pronouns while they decreased the use of third person pronouns like he/she, suggesting that they were trying to distance their social group from the lie rather than themselves.

Keeping on trend, the White European and White British participants provided less perpetual information in their lie whereas the Black African and South Asian participants increased their perceptual information to compensate for providing less social information.

The results of this study suggest that the linguistic cues of deception and lying are not the same for all cultures and the differences are dictated by their cultural values and norms.

This has serious implications from forensic risk assessments, discrimination proceedings and evaluation of asylum seekers as without a proper understanding and culture-specific training, erroneous judgements can be made about an individual and whether he is lying, which would impact justice.

So the next time you think someone is lying, don’t be too quick to judge, but try to understand their cultural norms and background first.

Source: Royal Society Open Science

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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