Scientific and unscientific research on ‘techno-treachery’

Friends Provident (a financial services company) has garnered a fair amount of interest in the media with a pop survey of deception behaviour. Here’s how Reuters (28 Dec) covered it:
Gadgets seen as best way to tell white lies

More than four out of five people admit to telling little white lies at least once a day and the preferred way of being “economical with the truth” is to use technology such as cell phones, texts and e-mails, a survey on Thursday said.

The research by UK pollsters 72 Point found that “techno-treachery” was widespread with nearly 75 percent of people saying gadgets like Blackberrys made it easier to fib.

Just over half of respondents said using gadgets made them feel less guilty when telling a lie than doing it face to face, the study on behalf of financial services group Friends Provident found.

You can find the Friends Provident press release here. This seems to be becoming an annual adventure for FP – in December 2005 they announced another new survey on lying in a press release entitled “Three in four Britons tell white lies at least once a day“. Some of the topics were the same in the 2005 study as the 2006 one, and comparing the reported percentage agreements will give you a good idea of how ‘scientific’ these surveys are (or aren’t).

If you would like to read real scientific research on deception and computer-mediated communication, you could take a look at the work of Lina Zhou who has has been researching deception via gadets and online for the last few years, or Adam Joinson, who has a book coming out in 2007 on “Truth, Trust and Lies on the Internet”. Or try Hancock et al.’s 2004 study of deception via email, phone and face to face communication. Here are some references to get you started:

* Hancock, J. T., Thom-Santelli, J., & Ritchie, T. (2004). Deception and Design: The Impact of Communication Technology on Lying Behavior. Letters CHI, 6(1). See also Tasty Research commentary.
* Joinson, A.N. and Dietz-Uhler, B. (2002). Explanations for the perpetration of and reactions to deception in a virtual community. [PDF full text] Social Science Computer Review, 20 (3), 275-289.
* Zhou, L. (2005). An empirical investigation of deception behavior in instant messaging. Ieee Transactions on Professional Communication, 48(2), 147-160.
* Zhou, L., Burgoon, J. K., Zhang, D. S., & Nunamaker, J. F. (2004). Language dominance in interpersonal deception in computer-mediated communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 20(3), 381-402.
* Zhou, L., Burgoon, J. K., & Twitchell, D. P. (2003). A longitudinal analysis of language behavior of deception in e-mail. In Intelligence and Security Informatics, Proceedings (Vol. 2665, pp. 102-110).
* Zhou, L., Burgoon, J. K., Twitchell, D. P., Qin, T. T., & Nunamaker, J. F. (2004). A comparison of classification methods for predicting deception in computer-mediated communication.[PDF full text] Journal of Management Information Systems, 20(4), 139-165.

    Griping aside, I do like the term ‘techno-treachery’ though!

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