It seems that not a day goes by without news of someone’s contentious email, twitter or chat exchange, and whether the contents of the message are true or not.
A new study finds that communication using computers for instant messaging and e-mail increases lying compared to face-to-face conversations, and that e-mail messages are the most likely to contain lies.
The findings by psychologist Dr. Robert S. Feldman and doctoral candidate Mattityahu Zimbler are published in the October issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
The researchers looked at 110 same-sex pairs of college students who engaged in 15-minute conversations either face-to-face, using e-mail, or using instant messaging. The results were then analyzed for inaccuracies.
Investigators discovered that while there is some degree of deception present in all three forms of communication, it was increased in both instant messaging and e-mail, with e-mail messages the most likely to contain lies.
Underlying this was the concept of deindividualization, where as people grow psychologically and physically further from the person they are in communication with, there is a higher likelihood of lying, they said.
Researchers believe the temptation to lie in emails relates to the distance one person is from the other, and the fact that e-mail communication is asynchronous – that is, not delivered in real-time as compared to instant messaging or face-to-face conversation.
Feldman and Zimbler concluded, “It seems likely that the asynchronicity of e-mail makes the users feel even more disconnected from the respondent in that a reply to their queries is not expected immediately, but rather is delayed until some future point in time.”
“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 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,” Feldman and Zimbler said.
“Given the public attention to incidents of Internet predation, this research suggests that the deindividualization created by communicating from behind a computer screen may facilitate the process of portraying a disingenuous self.”