"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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Catalina Toma | EurekAlert!
Product placement: Only brands placed very prominently benefit from 3D technology
07.07.2016 | Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt
NASA Goddard network maintains communications from space to ground
02.03.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy