Text Messaging Featured Article

Lying is Easier Texted than Said

December 21, 2011

According to research by the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, text messaging leads people to be more deceitful when compared to other modes of communication. People are more comfortable hiding the truth through texts, and this method is the way people get the most upset.

The study, led by Assistant Professor David Jingjun Xu of Wichita State University, involved 170 students performing mock stock transactions in one of four ways: face-to-face, by video, audio, or text chatting, comparing the level of deceit people are prepared to use in the variety of media.

“Our results confirm that the more anonymous the technology allows a person to be in a communications exchange, the more likely they are to become morally lax,” says Sauder Professor Karl Aquino, one of the co-authors of the study.

Text messaging has become such a dominating form of communication that the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending that vehicle drivers no longer user their cell phones, including hands-free devices. A poll by Poll Position found that numerous Americans would be supportive in implementing this new controversial idea.

The mock stock transactions involved the brokers knowing the stock was rigged to lose half of its value. At the end of the transaction, buyers were given this information and asked to report whether the brokers had deceived them to sell their stock.

Researchers promised the students cash awards of up to $50 to increase their involvement in the role-play. “Brokers” were promised more money for more stock sales, and “buyers” were told their cash reward would later depend on the determined value of the stock.

The research found that buyers who received information via text message were 95 percent more likely to report deception than if they had interacted via video, 31 percent more likely to report deception when compared to face-to-face, and 18 percent more likely if the interaction was via audio chat.

“We expected there would be deception through texts, but we didn’t think the most truth would come out of video chat interactions. Video heightened the student broker’s awareness of being scrutinized, so they were more likely to feel under the spotlight and be honest,” study co-author and associate professor Ronald Cenfetelli

Communicating by video heightened the brokers’ awareness of being scrutinized, which suppressed their impulse to use dishonest sales tactics—the so-called “spotlight” effect.

The study also found that people deceived by “leaner” media, such as text messages, are more angered than those misled by “richer” media, such as video chat.

For businesses, video conferencing or in-person interactions may be preferable to text-based communication if the company is concerned about how customers may react to the given information.

“Rapport-building occurs when talking face to face and that is helped along by eye contact, body language and other factors,” Cenfetelli said. “That helps soften the blow a bit when you find out you’re being lied to. Through text, it’s stripped of emotion and body language, and magnifies the depth of pain.”

“With this in mind, people shopping online using websites like eBay (News - Alert) should consider asking sellers to talk over Skype to ensure they are getting information in the most trustworthy way possible,” says Cenfetelli, who studies human-computer interaction in Sauder’s Management Information Systems division.

The study will appear in the March edition of the Journal of Business Ethics.

In recent news, Acision, the global leader in mobile messaging services, was named the leading text messaging vendor for 2011 by Informa Telecoms & Media (News - Alert).

According to independent findings from the analyst house, Acision has a share of more than one-third of the global SMS infrastructure market in 2011, more than double the share of its nearest competitor.

Rachel Ramsey is a TMCnet editorial assistant, contributing news items and feature articles on a variety of communications and technology topics. Rachel has previously worked in PR and communications at The Wriglesworth Consultancy, an award-winning London PR firm. She has also contributed to the creative services department at CBS 3 and The CW Philly in Philadelphia. To read more of Rachel's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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