When context matters: how false, truthful, and genre-related communication styles are revealed in language

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Abstract

In this preregistered experiment, we address an understudied question in the deception and language literature: What is the impact of context on false and truthful language patterns? Drawing on two theories, Truth-Default Theory and the Contextual Organization of Language and Deception model, we instructed participants (N = 639) to lie, tell the truth, or write within a genre without explicit lying or truth-telling instructions across different topics (e.g. their friends, attitudes on abortion). The results successfully replicate several cue-based models for self-references and negative affect, such as the Newman Pennebaker model of deception. Participants without lying or truth-telling instructions, but who wrote within genre conventions, showed markedly similar patterns to truth-tellers, though indicators of analytic thinking, adjectives, and auxiliary verbs were distinct. The data were also evaluated with a topic modeling approach and suggest that the abortion process was construed negatively when people lied about the topic. Truth-tellers construed abortion in objective terms and genre-related speech highlighted key role-players (e.g. the government, men, women, baby). We discuss how these data advance deception and language theory.

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Markowitz, D. M., & Griffin, D. J. (2020). When context matters: how false, truthful, and genre-related communication styles are revealed in language. Psychology, Crime and Law, 26(3), 287–310. https://doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2019.1652751

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