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Study: Why People Lie Significantly More In Emails Than Letters

Bad news. Turns out that those Nigerian princes aren’t the only ones filling your inbox with lies. An article in the well-named psychology blog PsyBlog details a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology that showed people lied 50% more in an experiment when writing in emails than in handwritten letters. While it was already known that people find it easier, psychologically, to lie in text or on the phone rather than face to face, the scientists were surprised to find a difference between the relatively comparable letter sending techniques. They’ve come up with some pretty interesting explanations for the findings.

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The scientists conducting the experiment connected the subjects actions to something called the Moral Disengagement Theory. Created by social psychologist Albert Bandura, the theory attempts to explain how people rationalize and allow themselves to commit acts that they know are wrong. There are many ways that humans do this but two of them in particular fit perfectly with sending emails.

From PsyBlog:

“Two of these are (1) by changing how the offending actions are viewed and (2) by creating psychological distance from the harmful consequences of the action. Both of these are encouraged by three characteristics of email:
Less permanent: people think of it as a substitute for conversation rather than a letter. People feel they are ‘chatting’ more over email, rather than writing to each other. The impermanence of email is emphasised by a GMail feature which allows users to ‘unsend’ a message within 5 seconds of sending (instruction here).

Less restrained: as mentioned in this previous post on social networking profiles, people behave in a more disinhibited way online. Online exchanges show less conformity to social norms, people display much less restraint and are less worried about what others think of them.

Lower personal connection: studies show that online, people feel less trust and rapport with others, leaving them with a sense of disconnection.”

One thing the article doesn’t go into is whether or not these findings relate to other types of electronic communication like, say, writing a blog. OF course, be assured we here at Geekosystem would never, ever lie to you. Trust us.

(via PsyBlog)

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