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People may lie more when texting

31 January 2012, 12:14

Researchers say it may be easier for people to lie in a text message than when they communicate through video or in person because they don't feel as scrutinised.

The new study was led by David Jingjun Xu, assistant business professor at Wichita State University School of Business in Wichita, Kan. Working with colleagues at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, he had 170 UBC business students conduct fake stock trades in person, by video or by sending texts.

The participants acting as brokers were told they would receive cash rewards for increased stock sales. They were also given inside information that the stock they were selling would lose half its value.

Meanwhile, buyers were told they would receive cash depending on their stocks' value, but they were not given any inside information before their transaction. Once the trades were completed, the buyers were asked if their brokers had been deceitful.

After examining which brokers were considered liars, the researchers took into account which forms of communication the "broker" had used to make the trade.

The study revealed that buyers who received information through text messages were 95% more likely to report a deception than if they had communicated through video. They were also 31% more likely to report that they were deceived than those who made the transaction in person and 18% more likely than those who had an audio chat.

The researchers pointed out one possible explanation for significant drop in deception during the video communication is that video can make people feel as though they are being more closely watched - a perception they called the "spotlight effect."

Xu's team also believes that the findings might help consumers avoid problems such as online fraud.

The findings are to be published in an issue of the Journal of Business Ethics.


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