60-Second Mind

Business, Lies and E-mail

New research finds that business students lie more often in e-mail than when communicating using pen and paper. Christie Nicholson reports

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

E-mail is often a rather casual form of communication. Language is more informal, and grammar, well, it ain't a priority.  Now comes a study that finds that people tend to lie more in e-mail than when writing with pen and paper. This research from DePaul, Lehigh and Rutgers universities.

48 MBA students were given $89 to split with an unknown person they were to contact in print. Students sending a written note lied about the total sum of money 64 percent of the time. But students sending e-mail to their partners lied about the total amount more than 92 percent of the time. A second test found that the rate of lying remained the same even when subjects knew their partners.

The authors suggest that e-mail is a young phenomenon and its social rules are looser and still evolving, whereas when you put something in writing, psychologically there is a stronger hold—it’s really there, in writing.

—Christie Nicholson


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