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  • Emma Buryd

How To Know If You're Being Lied To in 5 Seconds




Would you like to know when someone is lying to you? You may just need a very simple question.


And no, that question is not: "Do you promise?"


Jeff Hancock is a Stanford professor, founded the Stanford Social Media Lab, and specializes in communications. His work revolves around the behavior of lies, the use of social networks, and trust in technology.


In 2004, he conducted a study at Cornell University. The objective was to study how people behave when communicating by different means.





The experiment

Participants were asked to record their most important social interactions over 7 days. In addition, they had to write down the lies told.


Professor Hancock has various lectures and readings where he talks about the importance of lying. It is something natural in our behavior and we do it since we are children.


Over the years, technology and social media have changed the way we communicate. So it's fair to assume that the way we lie also changes.


For example, when you order two Big Macs for yourself through a delivery app and you don't have to pretend in front of the cashier that the other burger is for someone else.





The results

The main means of communication that were registered in the experiment were: emails, texts, in-person conversations, and phone calls.


After the week, according to the records of the participants, it was indicated that people tend to lie:

  • In 14% of emails

  • 21% of the texts (this was 2004, remember)

  • 27% of face-to-face talks

  • And in 37% of phone conversations

Jeff Hancock concluded that people tend to lie less in emails and texts since they are records that are stored.


So when interactions are off the record, more lies are told.





How to spot a lie

The next time you suspect someone is lying to you, ask them to text or email you. If the person is hesitant to do so, it is possible that what they are saying is a lie.


Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to ask my girlfriend to e-mail me that she didn't eat the last popsicle in the freezer.


You can read the research here.





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