How to Catch a Texting Liar

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You’re in the middle of a texting conversation when the other person suddenly stops for a long pause before responding.

What does it mean? Maybe they got a call, got distracted by something else, or their thumbs needed a break. But if your last missive was about something heady, it’s also possible they’re taking the time to cook up a lie.

Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) asked more than 100 college students to respond to 30 questions each that were generated by a computer and texted to the participants. In half of their responses, the students were asked to lie. They found that when the students were lying, it took them 10% longer to send the text message, and they made more edits than usual.

(MORE: How Texting and IMing Help Introverted Teens)

According to the researchers, people are only able to detect when someone is lying to them in person about 54% of the time — there are behaviors that some people swear are giveaways of mendacity, like not being able to look people in the eye, or fidgeting. So it’s incredibly difficult to identify when someone is doing so online or over the phone. During texting conversations, you can’t hear the other person’s voice or see their facial expressions — which makes it easier to get away with an untruthful response. (A 2011 study found that people are more likely to lie while texting than in face-to-face conversations or video conferences for just this reason, and Manti Te’o’s catfish experience highlighted how easily it’s done on social media.)

But while digital conversations are easy to manipulate, the results suggest that some patterns, such as the delay in texting fibs, could become cues for reading into the hidden meanings of voice or text communications. Granted, it was a small study, and not a real-life setting, but the researchers say their findings raise interesting questions about how the validity of other online transactions, such as communications on social media feeds and chat rooms, might be interpreted when it comes to issues of security and personal safety. “We are starting to identify signs given off by individuals that aren’t easily tracked by humans. The potential is that chat-based systems could be created to track deception in real-time,” said study author Tom Meservy, a BYU professor of information systems in a statement about the study.

If you can’t look them in the eye, maybe it’s worth looking at a stopwatch.

SEE ALSO:  The Big Surprise of Martin Luther King’s Speech 

131 comments
www.bulksmsbase.com
www.bulksmsbase.com

"What does it mean? Maybe they got a call, got distracted by something else, or their thumbs needed a break. But if your last missive was about something heady, it’s also possible they’re taking the time to cook up a lie". You are not far from the truth.

www.bulksmsbase.com
www.bulksmsbase.com

I like this. This is very informative. I will give this a second thought.

ghormax
ghormax

While it is likely that thinking of a lie takes longer, we cannot draw the opposite conclusion, ie that if someone takes longer to respond that he or she is lying. For instance, if someone asks you something important than you want to be more careful in how you respond. That will also take more time. Similarly, a quick response does not mean the other person is not lying. 

valeriegnow
valeriegnow

@jonathanyabut totally agree..liars need time to rephrase and memorize what they r lying about! But usually they gey caught!!!

Dysgyzed
Dysgyzed

@TIME People who are lying take longer to text <RT Don't have time to sit around and text. Busy doing whatever it is that requires lying.

MLVF11
MLVF11

@jonathanyabut agreeable but it still depends on some situations but I'd agree to that most of the time, still thinking of fake stories haha

divinee_jav
divinee_jav

@jonathanyabut maybe not all the time..some liars are also capable of sending/replying quickly,swiftly since pre meditated (lies).

kerohara
kerohara

@Kelangdbn 直接会うとほんの0コンマのふとしたものでも目に付いてしまったりしたりするものが、という話ですかね、大事な会議なんかはやっぱり会って話すってのに重きをおかれるっていうのもこういうところだとそんな気はしますね。

Abduleh_123
Abduleh_123

@alheezan الله يسعد صباحك يادكتور فقط أود تذكير سعادتكم بتحديث ارقام هواتف موظغي الوزارة المتقاعدين لمتابعة أخبار الوزارة رقمي0536455564

senwogbo
senwogbo

@cuervochanelle @TIME Damn right!The greater majority out there are buffoons and take these things literally as the proverbial "word of God"

senwogbo
senwogbo

@TIME @TIMEHealthland An example of a lame brained research conclusion.There are just too many confounders to make this study worthless.

CodyChristianson
CodyChristianson

I don't agree. Most people, unless they are in a time sensitive/heated conversation, could care less about responding right away. If I wanted an immediate answer, I'll call. Texting means I can be free to respond when I can or when I want too. Although, in some cases it could mean the person is lying, they could really be trying to figure how to respond so to keep the conversation going or so they don't sound dumb.

Yorickbrown
Yorickbrown

This study is highly flawed because of the distractions that exist in real world experiences.

Perhaps the person received a call, another text or an email/FB/Twitter/G+Linked in notification. 
Perhaps they were in a location where the signal was dropped.
Perhaps they dropped their phone.
Perhaps someone walked up to them and started a conversation.
Perhaps their phone battery died.
Perhaps they are eating and spilled something.
Perhaps they are not a texting junkie who feels the need to continue the conversation in real time.
Perhaps their favorite song, tv show or <insert other distraction occurred.
Perhaps they don't want to text and drive!

Come on, a pause in the amount of time it takes to answer someone by text can mean almost anything.

jefnvk
jefnvk

I prefer to just not associate with people that may be in the habit of lying to me.  If you are that suspicious of a partner that you are trying to catch them in a lie, you should probably just break it off

olasson
olasson

Nope.. Lying is fast but it takes time to formulate the truth.