Do People Lie More on Email?


Yes, if you are to believe the study done by Mattitiyahu Zimbler and Robert S. Feldman of the University of Massachusetts. (See this)

“…some degree of deception present in all three forms (face-to-face, instant messenger, email) of communication, it was increased in both instant messaging and e-mail, with e-mail messages the most likely to contain lies…”

The author goes on to draw the conclusion that “deindividualization” effect leads to lying. When people grow psychologically and physically further from the person they are in communication with, there is a higher likelihood of lying.

No, if you go by what is written in the book “59 Seconds: Think a Little – Change a Lot” by Richard Wiseman. In this book he quotes a study by Jeff Hancock and his colleagues at Cornell University and goes on to say that:

“…people in lied 14% of emails, 21% of texts, 27% of face-to-face and 37% of telephone…”

In this case the author concludes that when somebody has to put things in writing the chances of lying comes down.

[I have not given the details of the study – you can look it up.]

Which is correct?

Both explanations look very logical.

So, what is the truth?

How two academic studies can have such diverse result?

Which one should you believe?

Fooled by Randomness

If you have not read this book “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I suggest that you read it. However, let me warn you that you might be put off by the style of writing.

But for now, you can have a look at these articles which outlines the main thesis of the book.

  1. Book Extract – The nature of probability is easily misunderstood, and misinterpretations of statistics abound.
  2. Review by Mark Wainwright – Try as we might, we continue to see patterns where none exist, misunderstand the role of randomness, seek explanations for chance phenomena, and believe that we know more about the future than we do. And that is the point of this book.

May be, here lies the explanation of how 2 studies can come to such diverse conclusion.

We live in a complex world

Our world is complex – especially when we deal with human being.

You have to accept the fact that the day of finding simple and elegant explanations for every trend that we observe are over. Any trend that we observe may be just a random event. The cause and effect correlation presented to us may look neat but is likely to be totally erroneous.

Be skeptical of all such studies.

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