Dishonesty goes viral
Dishonesty has gone viral, according to a recent study by University of Massachusetts psychology professor and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Robert Feldman, and graduate student Mattitiyahu Zimbler. The study found that people are more likely to lie during conversations via email or instant-message than through any other means of communication.
The research paper, titled “Liar, Liar, Hard Drive on Fire: How Media Context Affects Lying Behavior,” was published in the October issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, according to a press release.
The paper studied 110 same-sex pairs of college students who participated in 15-minute conversations either in-person, through email or instant-message. The results indicated people are more likely to lie when communicating through a computer or cell phone than when speaking to someone face-to-face.
UMass junior John Scarpa said that he agrees with the Feldman’s findings, and though he has not recently used email or instant-messaging to tell lies, he understands why it is easier to send a lie than speak one.
“It would be a lot easier to lie in an email because you can be more passive. You don’t have to say something to someone’s face,” said Scarpa. “If you want to put something off, it’s a lot easier to write or text to tell somebody that you can’t do something.”
Feldman and Zimbler’s research suggests, according to the press release, that email is the easiest means of communication through which to tell a lie because it is “asynchronous,” meaning not connected to real time. Therefore, it gives people more time to plan out their lies and word them carefully, so as to sound like the truth.
“It’s easier to lie and sort of twist information [in emails] because you don’t have to promptly answer. You have time to think about it,” said UMass junior Hope Deeran. “With teachers, it’s easier to say that you’re sick and they wouldn’t know. You can sound sicker than you are just to make your case a little better. It’s also easier to believe people [in emails] because you can’t tell if they are lying.”
Feldman, an expert on deception, according to the press release, has been the dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass since 2009, the same year he published a book titled “The Liar in Your Life.” The book gives insight into why and how people lie, how lies have become increasingly tolerated in society and what impacts that has on people, according to amazon.com.
“Ultimately, the findings show how easy it is to lie when online, and that we are more likely to be the recipient of deceptive statements in online communication than when interacting with others face-to-face,” said Feldman in the press release.
Feldman joined the UMass faculty in 1977, after teaching for three years at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also been a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke College and Wesleyan University and was also a Fulbright lecturer and researcher at Ewha University in Seoul, South Korea in 1977, according to the press release.
Freshman Kyle Bunge said he also agrees with Feldman’s assessments on lying.
“[It is easier to lie in an email] because people can’t see your facial expressions and they can’t possibly know if you’re lying,” said Bunge, who said he has had people lie to and about him via Facebook message.
Scarpa said he thinks everyone has used technology to lie and some time or another, even though it “feels a lot better” to talk to someone in person.
Junior Elizabeth Dwelly claims she has used email to lie, something she assessed many people likely do.
“It’s easier, especially if you’re not a good liar. I’ve used it to lie to people, like pretending to be nice when you don’t actually like somebody,” said Dwelly.
Feldman and Zimbler’s research suggests that the impersonal quality of email and instant-messaging makes it a much easier means for telling lies.
“In exploring the practical implications of this research, the results indicate that the Internet allows people to feel more free, psychologically speaking, to use deception, at least when meeting new people,” said Feldman.
Senior Stephanie Carbalho says that though she has not used the Internet to tell lies, she understands that it must be easier to lie or even exaggerate while on the computer.
“When you talk to someone face-to-face you’re looking them directly in the eye as opposed to hiding behind a computer,” said Carbalho.
Steffi Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.