Article | Discourse Processes | 2012

Evidence for the Pinocchio Effect: Linguistic Differences Between Lies, Deception by Omissions, and Truths

by Lyn M. Van Swol, Michael T. Braun and Deepak Malhotra

Abstract

The study used Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count and Coh-Metrix software to examine linguistic differences with deception in an ultimatum game. In the game, the Allocator was given an amount of money to divide with the Receiver. The Receiver did not know the precise amount the Allocator had to divide, and the Allocator could use deception. Allocators either lied, deceived through omission, or were truthful with the Receiver with their allocation decision. Liars used a higher percentage of third-person pronouns, numbers, and profanity than other participants. Participants using deception by omission used fewer words and a lower percentage of causation words than other participants. Support was found for the "Pinocchio effect": liars generally used more words than other participants, although truthful Allocators with suspicious partners did not significantly differ from liars on word count. Allocators with suspicious partners used more negative emotion words and profanity. Mixed support was found for indexes from Coh-Metrix that measured whether liars had a higher cognitive load. Results are discussed in terms of strategic and non-strategic linguistic cues.

Keywords: Communication Intention and Meaning; Cognition and Thinking;

Citation:

Van Swol, Lyn M., Michael T. Braun, and Deepak Malhotra. "Evidence for the Pinocchio Effect: Linguistic Differences Between Lies, Deception by Omissions, and Truths." Discourse Processes 49, no. 2 (2012): 79–106.