How to Tell if Someone is Lying to You Online

Most of us are horrible lie detectors in face-to-face interaction, and we’re even worse when it comes to knowing if someone is lying online. New research suggests, however, that there are certain linguistic signals we can look for to determine if someone is trying to hoodwink us.

The research focused on online dating, an arena rife with deception from men and women alike. Using personal descriptions written for Internet dating profiles, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell University have identified reliable clues as to whether the author was being deceptive.

The researchers compared the actual height, weight and age of 78 online daters to their profile information and photos on four matchmaking websites. A linguistic analysis of the group’s written self-descriptions revealed patterns in the liars’ writing.

Here are a few examples:

The more deceptive a dater’s profile, the less likely they were to use the first-person pronoun “I.” Liars do this because they want to distance themselves from their deceptive statements.Liars often used negation, a flip of the language that would restate “happy” as “not sad” or “exciting” as “not boring.”