The average person lies once or twice a day and every person is lied to 10 to 200 times a day. Couples lie to each other one out of every ten interactions. Strangers tell about 3 lies during the first 10 minutes of their encounter because somehow we find it easier to be deceptive to someone we don’t know. Men lie eight times more about themselves than about others, and women lie to protect others. According to social media expert Pamela Meyer, “Lying is an attempt to bridge a gap, to connect our wishes and our fantasies, about who we wish we were, how we could be, with what we’re really like.”

Digital technology is changing every aspect of human communication. What impact does it have on human deception? Do we tell more lies because nobody can see us?

Psychologist and social scientist Jeff Hancock and his team have identified three new types of lies made possible by text messages, email and online comments:

1. The Butler. These are lies that draw lines in the 24/7 nature of our relationships, while maintaining friendships. For example: “I’m on my way” or “Sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I didn’t see the message.”
2. The Sock Puppet. These are lies that preserve identity, like when someone idealizes themselves in their online dating profile.
3.The Chinese Water Army. These are lies which seek to build a reputation en masse, like when a company posts hundreds of positive ratings of their own product.

So on the surface it may seem that the ways of lying and scope of their influence have expanded through the usage of Internet. But if we drill down to the people we talk to, our family, friends and coworkers, the findings are quite surprising. Hancock’s studies suggest people are far more honest online than face to face. Overall Facebook profile does reflect one’s true personality. LinkedIn resumes are more truthful than paper resumes on skills and previous experiences that matter to the employers. Even though 80% of the online daters are dishonest about at least one element of their profiles, their descriptions mostly cluster around the truth. A person may round up an inch or down 10 pounds, but giving a number close to the truth. People actually tell more lies via the phone in comparison to emails.

Hancock believes that the one of the reasons for this interesting phenomenon is because we are very bad at detecting lies. Half of the time we get it wrong since there are no reliable cues to deception. Eye contact and body language don’t always give it away. Therefore getting away with lying face-to-face isn’t as hard as imagined. Linguists agree that language was evolved 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, while writing only emerged some 5,000 years ago. We don’t know what the pre-ancient people talked about, but every word said and every lie uttered vanished without a trace. Habitual liars will lie no matter what. Others aren’t going to be more deceptive just because nobody is watching us.

Lies tend to survive in the dark. Today we reside in the lit up digital world 24 by 7. Communication mediated by technology leaves a record, one that is both searchable and verifiable. Maybe that’s what keeps people more honest communicating online.

One of the following two reviews was written by someone who had never been to James Hotel but was paid to post a positive comment:

“I have stayed at many hotels traveling for both business and pleasure and I can honestly say that the James is tops. The service at the hotel is first class. The rooms are modern and very comfortable. The location is perfect within walking distance to all of the great sights and restaurants. Highly recommended to both business travelers and couples.”

“My husband and I stayed at the James Chicago Hotel for our anniversary. This place is fantastic! We knew as soon as we arrived we made the right choice! The rooms are BEAUTIFUL and the staff very attentive and wonderful! The area of the hotel is great. Since I love to shop I couldn’t ask for more! We will definitely be back to Chicago and we will for sure be back to the James Chicago.”

Can you tell which review is fake? Looking for patterns and wording, the computer can make a more accurate guess than we can. Remember we only get it right about half of the time.

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