Everyday deception or a few prolific liars? The prevalence of lies in text messaging

Madeline E. Smith, Jeffrey T. Hancock, Lindsay Reynolds*, Jeremy Birnholtz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-227
Number of pages8
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Dec 2014


  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Deception
  • Lying
  • Text messaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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