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Abstract

Testing truth-default theory, individual-level variation in lie frequency was parsed from within-individual day-to-day variation (good/bad lie days) by examining 116,366 lies told by 632 participants over 91 days. As predicted and consistent with prior findings, the distribution was positively skewed. Most participants lied infrequently and most lies were told by a few prolific liars. Approximately three-quarters of participants were consistently low-frequency liars. Across participants, lying comprised 7% of total communication and almost 90% of all lies were little white lies. About 58% of the variance was explained by stable individual differences with approximately 42% of the variance attributable to within-person day-to-day variability. The data were consistent with both the existence of a few prolific liars and good/bad lie days.

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... More recently, Serota et al. (2021) found that senders considered nearly 90% of their lies to be little white lies. In contrast, Park et al. (2002) observed that reported detected lies were often important lies. ...
... It predicts that previous supportive theory-tests will be replicated. The two or fewer cut-point comes from Serota et al. (2021) who reported it as defining the normatively honest range with undergraduate student reports. ...
... Our final hypothesis rests on the conjecture that most lies told are minor and of little consequence (DePaulo et al., 1996;Serota et al., 2021). These minor lies go undetected (DePaulo et al., 1996), while the lies people detect are often more consequential (Park et al., 2002). ...
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The Palgrave Handbook of Deceptive Communication unravels the topic of lying and deception in human communication, offering an interdisciplinary and comprehensive examination of the field, presenting original research, and offering direction for future investigation and application. Highly prominent and emerging deception scholars from around the world investigate the myriad forms of deceptive behavior, cross-cultural perspectives on deceit, moral dimensions of deceptive communication, theoretical approaches to the study of deception, and strategies for detecting and deterring deceit. Truth-telling, lies, and the many grey areas in-between are explored in the contexts of identity formation, interpersonal relationships, groups and organizations, social and mass media, marketing, advertising, law enforcement interrogations, court, politics, and propaganda. This handbook is designed for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, academics, researchers, practitioners, and anyone interested in the pervasive nature of truth, deception, and ethics in the modern world.
Chapter
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For many scholars the issues of propaganda and deception have been largely taboo subjects. There is only fleeting attention to deception from political scientists whilst communication scholars pay minimal attention to the issue of propaganda. And yet we live in an age in which debates about deception and propaganda are prevalent. Recent angst over fake news and foreign propaganda activities have become part of political discourse. In fact, as this chapter shows, questions of deception and lying in politics are perennial and date back to ancient times whilst propaganda remains an integral component of contemporary democracies. Moreover, deception as a political strategy has become pervasive in contemporary liberal democracies because of the range of institutions now involved in the manipulation of information. These institutions include media, academia, think tanks and intelligence services. Furthermore, the emergence of internet-based digital communication creates new opportunities for powerful actors to manipulate beliefs and conduct. These developments raise profound questions with respect to the health of contemporary liberal democracies and, accordingly, the study of propaganda and deception needs to become far more central and mainstream than has been the case to date.
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Thesis
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Truth-Default Theory (TDT) is a new theory of deception and deception detection. This article offers an initial sketch of, and brief introduction to, TDT. The theory seeks to provide an elegant explanation of previous findings as well as point to new directions for future research. Unlike previous theories of deception detection, TDT emphasizes contextualized communication content in deception detection over nonverbal behaviors associated with emotions, arousal, strategic self-presentation, or cognitive effort. The central premises of TDT are that people tend to believe others and that this "truth-default" is adaptive. Key definitions are provided. TDT modules and propositions are briefly explicated. Finally, research consistent with TDT is summarized.
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Does everybody lie? A dominant view is that lying is part of everyday social interaction. Recent research, however, has claimed, that robust individual differences exist, with most people reporting that they do not lie, and only a small minority reporting very frequent lying. In this study, we found most people to subjectively report little or no lying. Importantly, we found self-reports of frequent lying to positively correlate with real-life cheating and psychopathic tendencies. Our findings question whether lying is normative and common among most people, and instead suggest that most people are honest most of the time and that a small minority lies frequently.
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In 2 diary studies of lying, 77 college students reported telling 2 lies a day, and 70 community members told 1. Participants told more self-centered lies than other-oriented lies, except in dyads involving only women, in which other-oriented lies were as common as self-centered ones. Participants told relatively more self-centered lies to men and relatively more other-oriented lies to women. Consistent with the view of lying as an everyday social interaction process, participants said that they did not regard their lies as serious and did not plan them much or worry about being caught. Still, social interactions in which lies were told were less pleasant and less intimate than those in which no lies were told.
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Truth-default Theory proposes that the frequency of lying is not normally distributed across the population and that most lies are told by a few prolific liars. A survey with a probability sample examined the frequency of lying among of adults in South Korea. Consistent with theoretical predictions and well-documented prior findings from the United States and Western Europe, South Koreans showed the few prolific liar pattern. Although South Koreans reported lying on average once or twice per day (M = 1.48), the distribution was skewed with a mode of zero and a median of one. Half of the reported lies were told by just 12.4% of the respondents. Distributions for women and men show similar results. Estimates of lies received also exhibited a long-tail distribution. The data add to the pan-cultural support for truth-default theory.
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A salient issue for online romantic relationships is the possibility of deception, but it is unclear how lies are communicated before daters meet. We collected mobile dating deceptions from the discovery phase, a conversation period after daters match on profiles but before a face-to-face interaction. Study 1 found that nearly two-thirds of lies were driven by impression management, particularly self-presentation and availability management goals. Study 2 found that approximately 7% of messages were deceptive, and content patterns were consistent with Study 1. Across studies, the participant’s lying rate was correlated with the perceived lying rate of the partner. We discuss the implications of these data in relation to impression management, deception theory, and online dating research.
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Although scholars invoke the goal construct to understand interpersonal communication, comprehensive and consistent conceptualizations of the construct are difficult to find in the literature. Much research a) does not define the goal construct leaving it as a given or primitive term, b) implicitly suggests a definition, or c) provides only a partial definition. Likewise, scholars often conflate goals with related but conceptually distinct constructs. The current chapter addresses these concerns. First, the goal construct is explicitly defined: Goals are mental representations of a desired end-state that can reside in hierarchies and be set at various levels of specificity. Next, goals are differentiated from related constructs. Finally, three ways in which the goal construct currently resides in interpersonal communication are demonstrated - goal activation, goals and interpersonal relationships, and goal inference processes.
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With the recent and dramatic changes to communication patterns introduced by new information technologies it is increasingly important to understand how deception is produced in new media. In the present study we investigate deception production in text messaging, focusing on how often people lie, about what and to whom. This study uses a novel data collection method that allows for the examination of individuals’ communication records at the message level, which may provide a more accurate account of deception behavior than diary or survey methods. We find that the majority of our participants practiced deception in text messaging. Although lying was a relatively infrequent occurrence for the majority of our participants, there were a small number of prolific liars who told a disproportionately large number of lies using this medium. Additionally, we found some support for the argument that deception occurs less frequently in closer relationships, and we observed how the micro-coordination goals of text messaging change the properties of deceptive text messages relative to face-to-face lies.
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This study examined the effects of self-presentation goals on the amount and type of verbal de- ception used by participants in same-gender and mixed-gender dyads. Participants were asked to engage in a conversation that was secretly videotaped. Self-presentational goal was manipu- lated, where one member of the dyad (the self-presenter) was told to either appear (a) likable, (b) competent, or (c) was told to simply get to know his or her partner (control condition). After the conversation, self-presenters were asked to review a video recording of the interaction and iden- tify the instances in which they had deceived the other person. Overall, participants told more lies when they had a goal to appear likable or competent compared to participants in the control condition, and the content of the lies varied according to self-presentation goal. In addition, lies told by men and women differed in content, although not in quantity.
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How common is deception in everyday communication, and what is the relationship between deception and media? This paper provides findings from two diary-based studies of deceptive communication using five different media, designed to help answer these questions. The findings show that 1) deception is common in every communication, accounting for 22% to 25% of social interactions, and 2) while there are differences in media use for everyday communication, the differences in lying behavior across media seem to be diminishing, compared to previous diary studies of everyday lying behavior.
HLM 7: Hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling
  • S W Raudenbush
  • A S Bryk
  • A S Cheong
  • Y F Fai
  • R T Congdon
  • M Du Toit
Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, A. S., Fai, Y. F., Congdon, R. T., & du Toit, M. (2011). HLM 7: Hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling. Scientific Software International.
The crossroads at "truth isn't truth": using communication theory to make truth great again. Symposium conducted at the Southern States Communication Association 89th Annual Conference
  • K B Serota
Serota, K. B. (2019, April 3-7). Our pathological, prolific liar in chief: The crisis of Donald Trump's lies. In F. Yang (Chair), The crossroads at "truth isn't truth": using communication theory to make truth great again. Symposium conducted at the Southern States Communication Association 89th Annual Conference, Montgomery, AL, United States. https://www.ssca.net/ 2019-convention.
A few prolific liars: Variation in the prevalence of lying
  • K B Serota
  • T R Levine
Serota, K. B., & Levine, T. R. (2015). A few prolific liars: Variation in the prevalence of lying. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 34(2), 138-157. https://doi.org/10.1177/ 0261927X14528804