Researchers have discovered that the longer it takes someone to respond to a message, the greater the chance that the sender is not being truthful.
The study, conducted by Brigham Young University in Utah, found that when participants texted a lie, it took on average 10% longer to compose the message. A group of over 100 students from two U.S. universities were asked to have text-based conversations with a specially written computer program. The program asked each participant 30 questions and the subjects were instructed to lie in roughly 50% of their responses.
As well as taking longer to compose, the researchers found that those messages that were less than accurate were also more edited and shorter than their truthful counterparts.
"Digital conversations are a fertile ground for deception because people can easily conceal their identity and their messages often appear credible," said Tom Meservy, BYU professor of information systems, who co-authored the study. "Unfortunately, humans are terrible at detecting deception. We're creating methods to correct that."
It is hoped that the findings, published this week in the academic information systems journal ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems, will provide a good starting point for developing systems to identify when people are being less than truthful.
According to Meservy the average person is only able to detect when someone is lying 54% of the time and that's when they can look that person in the eye or hear their tone of voice, but these new findings could help to develop automated systems that could, as Meservy describes it, "track deception in real-time."
However, before you reach for your smartphone and a stopwatch, remember that sometimes people really are just too busy to respond to a message immediately. As fellow BYU professor and co-author Jeffrey Jenkins says: "We are just at the beginning of this. We need to collect a lot more data."