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Liar, Liar, Hard Drive on Fire: How Media Context Affects Lying Behavior


Mattitiyahu Zimbler, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. E-mail: or to Robert S. Feldman, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. E-mail:


This study investigated frequency of deception when getting to know a stranger face to face or using computer-mediated technologies. Same-sex pairs of undergraduate participants engaged in 15-min conversations using e-mail, instant messenger, or speaking face to face. Afterward, target participants reviewed transcripts of their conversations and recorded inaccuracies. The results showed increased deception in the computer conditions, compared to the face-to-face condition, with the most lies found in e-mail messages. Lie content, rationale, and type were also affected by the communication medium. The findings suggest that it may be normative to distort reality online.