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The Language of Deception

November 7, 2013 • Strategic Spotlight, STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT

Separating lies from truths is key to successful negotiation, and research designed to uncover markers of deception can aid in this goal. Below, Michael T. Braun, Lyn M. Van Swol, & Deepak Malhotra consider how the analysis of linguistic patterns between liars and truth-tellers can betray our true intentions, and suggest the effect of this research on business.

Separating lies from truths and bluffs from honest offers is key to successful negotiation. Negotiators must know when to push for more and when to settle and accept an offer. Research designed to uncover markers of deception can aid in this goal. Research in this area has often focused on behavioral patterns (e.g., fidgeting, avoiding eye contact) and has achieved mixed results. New research, started in the late 1990s and accelerating today, tries a different tack: analysing linguistic patterns between liars and truth-tellers to see if the words we speak can betray our true intentions. This research uses computer software like Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) that can quickly count the percentage of words used in specific categories (such as negative emotion words, swear words, pronouns, etc.) from transcripts.



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