17th February 2017

Language Study: Hypothesis

Hesitation indicates that the speaker may not be paying full attention or may be unprepared, possibly also uncertain. Hesitation and therefore uncertainty is indicated by language fillers such as “sooo” “er” “ahhh” and “ummmm” This makes it much easier to lie in an online text conversation in which Paralinguistic features such as gestures and intonation do not play a role.

In order to prove our Hypothesis, we (Bronson, James and I) played two individual games of two truths one lie, a game in which each player tells the other three “facts”, however, one of these is a lie, the other players must then guess which one is the lie. We also transcribed a previous conversation between James and I, about an upcoming football game.
A small section of that conversation:

Const: Ohh Nah mate, Arsenals gonna get smashed by Bayern, so bad its going to be horrible for Arsenal.

James: Nah mate ah nah mate. your wrong Arsenal will turn up. and er well. Well actually Bayern and Arsenal do have an equal chance hauhehmeh Bayern have a sh… much better team.

In this small excerpt of the Transcript, James hesitates in the parts of his sentence that are marked red, indicating that he is uncertain about what he is saying, or may lack some knowledge on the topic. But what one can not see in a transcript, are the paralingustic features that are the key in identifying a lie.

The Hypothesis is further supported by the evidence gathered in the games of two truths one lie, in the spoken language, all of us guessed each others lies;

Bronson: Umm, Okay. Two truths and a lie. First one, I’m ambidextrous, second one…


Bronson: Number two, I have a cat called Mojo. Number three, I have lived in Wanaka almost my whole life

Const: You’re not ambidextrous

James: You’re not ambidextrous

Bronson: Yeah that’s the right. That’s a lie

James and I both guessed it was a lie, due to Bronsons intonation and other paralinguistic features such a gestures and facial expressions that  also gave it away. In the spoken game, all of us managed to guess the others lies relatively easily,  however, in the text conversation, only four out of six guesses were correct, which is a much lower success rate even though it is still much higher than we had anticipated. Here is a small part of said text conversation:

Bronson: Okay, my house is two storied, I lived in Christchurch for a year before I moved to wanaka, I used to own a dog called fudge

Const: second one is a lie

Bronson: James?

James: Last one

Bronson: I have never lived in chch. Twas a lie

In this example from the text conversation, only one of us guessed the lie correctly, which indicates that it is harder to determine if someone is lying without the influence of paralinguistic features such as body language and facial expressions. When used, emojis may compromise for the lack of a few expressions, but they will never compensate completely for the lack of paralinguistic features in online text conversations.

In conclusion, our Hypothesis from the start does hold true, however, body language, gestures and facial expressions etc do not play as big of a role, as initially expected. It is harder to identify a lie in text conversation than it is in spoken language, but other factors, such as knowledge of the person, how long the people in the conversation have known each other etc presumably play an even greater role than paralinguistic features.




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