Culture affects how people deceive others, say researchers

June 6, 2017, Lancaster University
Psychologists have discovered that people's language changes when they lie depending on their cultural background. Credit: Lancaster University

Psychologists have discovered that people's language changes when they lie depending on their cultural background.

Professor Paul Taylor of Lancaster University in the UK said: "Science has long known that people's use of language changes when they lie. Our research shows that prevalent beliefs about what those changes look like are not true for all cultures."

The researchers asked participants of Black African, South Asian, White European and White British ethnicity to complete a Catch-the-Liar task in which they provided genuine and false statements.

They found the statements of Western liars tend to include fewer first-person "I" pronouns than the statements of truth-tellers. This is a common finding and believed to be due to the liar trying to distance themselves from the lie.

However, they did not find this difference when examining the lies of Black African and South Asian participants. Instead, these participants increased their use of first person pronoun and decreased their third person "he/she" pronouns—they sought to distance their social group rather than them self from the lie.

There were also differences in the kinds of contextual details reported. The White European and White British participants followed the known trend of decreasing the perceptual information they provided in their lie. In contrast, the Black African and South Asian participants increased the perceptual information they gave when lying, to compensate for providing less social details.

"The results demonstrate that linguistic cues to deception do not appear consistently across all cultures. The differences are dictated by known cultural differences in cognition and social norms."

This has implications for everything from forensic risk assessments, discrimination proceedings and the evaluation of asylum seekers.

"In the absence of culture-specific training, an individual's judgements about veracity is most likely drawn from either experience or an evidenced-based understanding based on studies of Western liars. In these scenarios, erroneous judgements of veracity may impact on justice

"In today's world, where law enforcement and justice are asked to respond to a greater cultural diversity of suspect it will be important to use findings such as those presented here to adapt existing practices and policies so that they afford justice for all communities within the population."

Explore further: New study will enable improved BMI assessments of ethnic children for the first time

More information: Culture Moderates Changes in Linguistic Self-Presentation and Detail Provision when Deceiving Others, Royal Society Open Science, rsos.royalsocietypublishing.or … /10.1098/rsos.170128

Related Stories

New study will enable improved BMI assessments of ethnic children for the first time

March 22, 2017
BMI is the most widely-used measure of obesity in children, but the existing 'one-size fits all' standards don't provide accurate readings for UK South Asian or Black African children.

A suspicious mind leads to a suspicious face

May 9, 2017
In a series of studies, social psychology researchers show that Black participants who hold suspicious views of Whites visualize White faces, even smiling ones, as less trustworthy, less authentic and sometimes more hostile. ...

South Asian patients have worse experiences of GP interactions, study suggests

September 15, 2016
Communication between doctors and South Asian patients is poor, according to national GP surveys, but a question has been raised about whether this reflects genuinely worse experiences or differences in responding to questionnaires. ...

Recommended for you

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.