People tend to tell more fibs when they're texting, B.C. researchers say.
A study by the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia compared the level of deceit people use in a variety of media — text messages, audio, video and face-to-face interactions — using students making mock stock transactions.
They found buyers who received information via text messages were 95 per cent more likely to report deception than if they had interacted via video, 31 per cent more likely to report deception when compared to face-to-face, and 18 per cent more likely if the interaction was via audio chat.
Study co-author Ron Cenfetelli said people are simply less likely to tell the truth if there is no face-to-face contact.
"It's the degree of anonymity. You're just more protected," he said.
"You think about it like when you go on an online forum ... and people really don't know who you are, and that anonymity can drive a lot of lax moral behaviour."
The study suggests communicating by video heightened the sellers' awareness of being scrutinized, which suppressed their impulse to use dishonest sales tactics — the so-called 'spotlight' effect.
"With this in mind, people shopping online using websites like eBay should consider asking sellers to talk over Skype to ensure they are getting information in the most trustworthy way possible," said Cenfetelli.
The study also indicated people deceived by 'leaner' media, such as text messages, are more angered than those misled by 'richer' media, such as video chat.
The lesson for business, said Cenfetelli, is that video conferencing or in-person interactions may be preferable to text-based communication if the company is concerned about how customers may react to the given information.