If you want to get the unvarnished truth from someone, don't even entertain the thought of texting them. A new study by researchers from the University of British Columbia confirms what you may have suspected all along — people find it easier to lie through text messaging.
The 170 students in the study played out a pseudo-stock market scenario with real cash incentives to boost their involvement. Half of the students were designated brokers, while the other half were given the role of buyers. The brokers were privy to classified information that affected the cash reward the buyers received — and not telling the buyers what they know could lead to the increase of their own compensation.
Four modes of communication were used to make the business deals: personal meet-up, video chat, audio chat, and text messaging. After each transaction between a broker and a buyer, the latter would be informed of the same information the broker knew from the start. The researchers then asked them to report if the broker deceived them in order to make a sale.
The result? Nearly no deception was reported for video chat transactions, while those who made deals through text messaging were 31% more prone to report deception than if they met in person, and 18% more than if they talked through an audio chat. That's because brokers who did video chat transactions were acutely aware of being scrutinized, suppressing their urge to lie.
Professor Karl Aquino of the universty says, "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." So next time you have to deal with someone, don't make it easy for them to deceive you — arrange meetings where you can look them in the eye. In the case of buying from online sellers on Ebay or other websites, the researchers suggest asking them to chat with you over Skype so you'd get the most unembellished details possible.
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