Living

On which technology do people lie more: email or the telephone?

From white lies to whoppers, how bad is our daily deceit quota? Researchers at the University of Massachusetts (via the Ottawa Citizen) found that 60 per cent of people lied up to three times in just 10 minutes. That’s nearly nine lies every half hour (in the spirit of honesty, I confess I had to use a calculator to figure that out).

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Masterfile

Lying may not be the most admirable use of human intelligence, but, nonetheless, it is a significant part of our social lives, even our psyche. Few will admit they fudge the truth regularly, but studies suggest human beings do almost as much lying over the course of a day as they do truth telling (ah, the rest is just blessed small talk!)

From white lies to whoppers, how bad is our daily deceit? Researchers at the University of Massachusetts (via the Ottawa Citizen) found that 60 per cent of people lied up to three times in just 10 minutes. That’s nearly nine lies every half hour (in the spirit of honesty, I confess I had to use a calculator to figure that out). 

But if we’re able to lie so frequently and casually in conversation—(I love your haircut!) — how does technology affect our perverse need to disguise the truth? It all depends on the peculiar features of the medium, says one recent study (via The Atlantic). 

According to Cornell researcher Jeffrey Hancock, there are some technologies that bring the liar out in us. The worst offender: the telephone. 

After examining the results of a small survey of the lying habits of 30 university students over a seven-day period, Hancock found that people were far more likely to lie over the phone than they were over email or instant message. In fact, the participants lied the least over email. 

What is it about the telephone that makes lying so easy? For one, it occurs at a distance from the conversation partner, theorizes Hancock. Secondly, it doesn’t record the information (unless someone is secretly recording the conversation) so there’s no fear of being caught later with evidence of deceit. More importantly, the telephone offers an immediate interaction—there’s no delay—and so lies may come out spontaneously as they do in the course of a regular face-to-face conversation, or first date. 

But don’t go pitching the phone out the window quite yet. While Hancock’s study indicates that email is the least likely medium through which people deceive that may be because it’s a relatively new mode of communication. 

Writes Hancock “… increased experience with a communication technology may lead to increased deception with that technology.” 

To simplify: Give it time. Soon we’ll be lying like pros in one out of four emails too.