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People Lie on the Internet

Don't believe everything you receive in an email or text message: A new study finds that communication using computers for instant messaging and e-mail increases lying compared to face-to-face conversations.

A study looked at 110 same-sex pairs of college students who engaged in 15 minute conversations either face-to-face, using e-mail, or using instant messaging. The results were then analyzed for inaccuracies. In addition to the distance one person is from the other, e-mail communication has the added component of being asynchronous, not as connected in real time as instant messaging or face-to-face conversation.

While there is some degree of deception present in all three forms of communication, it was increased in both instant messaging and e-mail, with e-mail messages the most likely to contain lies.

As people grow psychologically and physically further from the person they are in communication with, there is a higher likelihood of lying. Psychologist Robert S. Feldman says, "Ultimately, the findings show how easy it is to lie when online, and that we are more likely to be the recipient of deceptive statements in online communication than when interacting with others face-to-face. The (study) results indicate that the Internet allows people to feel more free, psychologically speaking, to use deception, at least when meeting new people."

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