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Sep 07, 2013 08:25 AM EDT

Liars Take Longer to Respond in Digital Conversations, Study

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Individuals can easily identify people who are lying by observing the time gap between the text messages. People who lie during digital conversations (texts, social media, email and instant messages) take longer time to respond, make more edits and reply with shorter messages, according to a study conducted by researchers in Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah.

"Digital conversations are a fertile ground for deception because people can easily conceal their identity and their messages often appear credible," said Dr Tom Meservy, Brigham Young University in Utah. "Unfortunately, humans are terrible at detecting deception. We're creating methods to correct that."

Meservy said that humans can identify lies about 54 per cent of the time if they are lied to in person. Normally, it is difficult to spot lies in digital messages because a person's voice or facial expressions are not seen or heard.

Meservy and fellow BYU professor Dr Jeffrey Jenkins, along with colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Arizona, arrived at the conclusion by creating an experimental instrument to identify probable signs of online lying.

The researchers also developed a computer program to execute online conversations with participants.

More than 100 students from two large universities (one in the southeastern U.S. and the other in the southwest) replied to about 30 questions on the computer. Before they started the online conversation with the computer program, participants were told to lie in about half of their responses.

The experiment was similar to a conversation a consumer might have with an online customer service department. However, here, the computer program was designed to track how frequently the participants edited their responses and how much time they spent writing them.

The researchers found that false responses took 10 percent more time to generate and were edited more than honest messages.

'We are starting to identify signs given off by individuals that aren't easily tracked by humans,' Meservy said. 'The potential is that chat-based systems could be created to track deception in real-time.'

The findings were published Sept.5 in the journal ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems.

Meservy and Jenkins, who co-authored the study, said that people should not all the time, automatically presume that an individual is lying, if he/she is taking time to reply.

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