Sunday, September 8, 2013

Can you tell when people are lying in their text messages?

A Brigham Young University study suggests people when people lie in digital messages (texts, social media or instant messages), they take longer to respond, make more edits and write shorter sentences than usual.

"Digital conversations are a fertile ground for deception because people can easily conceal their identity and their messages often appear credible," says Tom Meservy, BYU professor of information systems. "Unfortunately, humans are terrible at detecting deception. We're creating methods to correct that."

According to Meservy, humans can detect lies about 54 percent of the time accurately -- not much better than a coin flip. It's even harder to tell when someone is lying through a digital message because you can't hear a voice or see an expression. With the many financial, security and personal safety implications of digital deception, Meservy and fellow BYU professor Jeffrey Jenkins, along with colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Arizona, set up an experimental instrument that tracked possible cues of online lying. The researchers created a computer program that carried out online conversations with participants -- similar to the experience consumers have with online customer service questions.

More than 100 students from two large universities, one in the southeastern U.S. and one in the southwestern U.S., had conversations with the computer, which asked them 30 questions each. The participants were told to lie in about half of their responses. The researchers found responses filled with lies took 10 percent longer to create and were edited more than truthful messages.

"We are starting to identify signs given off by individuals that aren't easily tracked by humans," Meservy said. "The potential is that chat-based systems could be created to track deception in real-time." The findings appear online this week in the academic information systems journal ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems. Meservy and Jenkins, who coauthored the study, said we shouldn't automatically assume someone is lying if they take longer to respond, but the study does provide some general patterns.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

People Reading Secrets of Special Agents

Here is a link to a fabulous article called How to Read People in Psychology Today. Learn about the three master people readers: Joe Navarro, J.J. Newbury and Jack Shafer. These three work in the world of criminal investigations and are experts at determining when a suspect is lying.

Here are some tips for setting the stage:
  • Shut Up: You’re in control when they’re talking, because you’re getting the information,” says J.J. Newberry. And don’t miss critical clues because you’re composing your next question. Sounds elemental? It’s the bane of law enforcement officers and journalists alike.
  • Set Up: Position and location matter. Women are most comfortable when seated directly across from an interlocutor. Men prefer to be at an angle relative to an interviewer. If your interviewee appears anxious, linger outside the room where you are scheduled to converse. A person may offer information just to avoid entering the room itself. Navarro calls this a “door jamb” confession. And a person exiting a room may feel guilty about wasting your time and concede a few unexpected morsels.
  • Change Perspective: People gear up for a verbal altercation. Have someone draw or act out an event—these actions can bring inconsistencies to light.
  • Get the Story Backwards: Reversing chronology forces a “frame by frame” recollection, rather than a reliance on knowledge of how events usually transpire. Reverse recall can trip up a liar and unearth forgotten or dormant information.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Face of a Killer

Are there "tells" in the faces of killers? This morning I happened across this photo of Nehemiah Griego, the 15-year old New Mexico teen accused of killing his family and plotting to randomly gun down Wal-Mart shoppers. What do you see in his face?

How does it compare to Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook gunman? How about James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater gunman?

I see contempt in Nehemiah's face. Note the pointed and commanding look in his eyes and his lips (tight and left corner slightly pointed up).

I also see what we call "head down, eyes up" posture which also reflects contempt, what my husband Mike refers to as "seething contempt."

Body Language expert Jack Brown suggests we pay attention to the "white and wild stare" as seen in Adam Lanza picture and also in James Holmes. According to Brown, "when the central forehead is also contracted along with widely opened eyes and displayed chronically should send a loud alarm."