Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lovelorn liars leave linguistic leads

14.02.2012
Online daters intent on fudging their personal information have a big advantage: most people are terrible at identifying a liar. But new research is turning the tables on deceivers using their own words.

"Generally, people don't want to admit they've lied," says Catalina Toma, communication science professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. "But we don't have to rely on the liars to tell us about their lies. We can read their handiwork."

Using personal descriptions written for Internet dating profiles, Toma and Jeffrey Hancock, communication professor at Cornell University, have identified clues as to whether the author was being deceptive.

The researchers compared the actual height, weight and age of 78 online daters to their profile information and photos on four matchmaking websites. A linguistic analysis of the group's written self-descriptions published in the February issue of the Journal of Communication revealed patterns in the liars' writing.

The more deceptive a dater's profile, the less likely they were to use the first-person pronoun "I."

"Liars do this because they want to distance themselves from their deceptive statements," Toma says.

The liars often employed negation, a flip of the language that would restate "happy" as "not sad" or "exciting" as "not boring." And the fabricators tended to write shorter self-descriptions in their profiles — a hedge, Toma expects, against weaving a more tangled web of deception.

"They don't want to say too much," Toma says. "Liars experience a lot of cognitive load. They have a lot to think about. They less they write, the fewer untrue things they may have to remember and support later."

Liars were also careful to skirt their own deception. Daters who had lied about their age, height or weight or had included a photo the researchers found to be less than representative of reality, were likely to avoid discussing their appearance in their written descriptions, choosing instead to talk about work or life achievements.

The toolkit of language clues gave the researchers a distinct advantage when they re-examined their pool of 78 online daters.

"The more deceptive the self-description, the fewer times you see 'I,' the more negation, the fewer words total — using those indicators, we were able to correctly identify the liars about 65 percent of the time," Toma says.

A success rate of nearly two-thirds is a commanding lead over the untrained eye. In a second leg of their study, Toma and Hancock asked volunteers to judge the daters' trustworthiness based solely on the written self-descriptions posted on their online profiles.

"We asked them to tell us how trustworthy the person who wrote each profile was. And, as we expected, people are just bad at this," Toma says. "They might as well have flipped a coin ... They're looking at the wrong things."

About 80 percent of the 78 profiles in the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, strayed from the truth on some level.

"Almost everybody lied about something, but the magnitude was often small," Toma says.

Weight was the most frequent transgression, with women off by an average of 8.5 pounds and men missing by 1.5 pounds on average. Half lied about their height, and nearly 20 percent changed their age.

Studying lying through online communication such as dating profiles opens a door on a medium in which the liar has more room to maneuver.

"Online dating is different. It's not a traditional interaction," Toma says.

For one, it's asynchronous. The back-and-forth of an in-person conversation is missing, giving a liar the opportunity to respond at their leisure or not at all. And it's editable, so the first telling of the story can come out exactly like the profile-writer would like.

"You have all the time in the world to say whatever you want," Toma says. "You're not expected to be spontaneous. You can write and rewrite as many times as you want before you post, and then in many cases return and edit yourself."

Toma says the findings are not out of line with what we know about liars in face-to-face situations.

"Online daters' motivations to lie are pretty much the same as traditional daters'," she says. "It's not like a deceptive online profile is a new beast, and that helps us apply what we can learn to all manners of communication"

But don't go looking just yet for the dating site that employs Toma's linguistic analysis as a built-in lie detector.

"Someday there may be software to tell you how likely it is that the cute person whose profile you're looking at is lying to you, or even that someone is being deceptive in an e-mail," Toma says. "But that may take a while."

– Chris Barncard, 608-890-0465, barncard@wisc.edu

Catalina Toma | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht Tile Based DASH Streaming for Virtual Reality with HEVC from Fraunhofer HHI
03.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik Heinrich-Hertz-Institut

nachricht Product placement: Only brands placed very prominently benefit from 3D technology
07.07.2016 | Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>