We're most likely to lie in a text -- but video chat never lies

New research suggests we're most likely to lie in a text than on the phone or face-to-face -- while video chat is most likely to bring out the truth.

Everybody knows a text message saying 'I'm on my way' means 'Bargain hunt finishes in 5 minutes and then I'll jump in the shower. See you in an hour, maybe?' And new research bears this out, suggesting we're more likely to lie in a text than when talking on the phone or face-to-face -- while video chat is most likely to bring out the truth.

Mashable reports the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia conducted a study of 170 students, pitting them against each other in mock stocks-and-shares roleplay. The results showed that participants were happiest to lie in text messages, and got much angrier when lied to by text than by any other form of message -- as anyone who's been left waiting outside the cinema for half an hour can furiously testify.

The students played either buyer or broker roles. They then roleplayed sales by text, phone, video chat and face-to-face, with both sides promised actual cash rewards if they did well -- the catch being that the fake brokers were insider trading.

In almost every case -- 95 per cent -- brokers giving information via text lied to their buyers.

We're not surprised -- the written, vaguely anonymous nature of texts makes them the perfect vehicles for massaging the truth, just like it makes Internet commenters come out with stronger opinions and insults. We imagine email is the same, or any communication in which we don't have to look the recipient in the eye: they can't see our non-verbal tics, and we have the opportunity to fine-tune our exact wording.

In fact, that sense of being scrutinised makes video chat even less conducive to fibbing than talking face-to-face. It seems our shady-dealing students found the unblinking gaze of a webcam made it harder to lie than looking into the eyes of their buyer. So if you want to ensure your conversation contains maximum truthfulness, fire up FaceTime.

Oddly, buyers were 20 per cent more likely to get angry when hit by SMS porky pies than those whose brokers had lied right to their faces.

Do you resort to texting when you've got bad news to deliver? What's the biggest whopper you've had on the blower? Tell us no lies in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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