New research suggests that people are much more likely to lie in email than when using pen and paper to communicate to someone. Lehigh University management professor Liuba Belkin and her colleagues ran an interesting experiment on 48 students involving a pool of money that was to be divided among themselves and an imaginary. According to the researchers, those using email during the negotiations lied 92 percent of the time compared to pen-and-paper users who fibbed around 64 percent of the time. From a press release:
Looking for an opportunity to explain whether a shared sense of identity reduces an e-mailer’s impulse to lie, Belkin and her colleagues set up a second, related study of 69 full-time MBA students. The results of that study indicated that the more familiar e-mailers are with each other, the less deceptive their lies would be.
Bu they would still lie, regardless of how well they identified with each other.
In recent years, researchers who have compared e-mail to other modes of communication have found it to be associated with such unattractive behaviors as lower interpersonal trust, more negative attitudes, and, perhaps most notoriously, a greater penchant for "flaming"–sending messages that are offensive, embarrassing, or rude.
But in trying to account for the difference between two communication modes that appear similar, the researchers surmise in their report that people may "feel written documents carry stronger legal consequences than do e-mails, which feel fleeting in nature, despite the fact that they are actually harder to erase or contain. Thus, deception may be viewed differently in these two environments."
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