Robert S. Feltman, professor of psychology and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Mattityahu Zimbler, a graduate student, looked at 110 same-sex pairs of college students who engaged in 15-minute conversations either face-to-face, using e-mail or using instant messaging. The results were then analyzed for inaccuracies.
Feldman and Zimbler found there is some degree of deception present in all three forms of communication, but it increased in both instant messaging and e-mail, with e-mail messages the most likely to contain lies.
Underlying this was the concept of deindividualization, a diminishing of one's sense of individuality that occurs with behavior disjointed from personal or social standards of conduct such as someone who is an anonymous member of a mob will be more likely to act violently toward a police officer than a known individual.
In addition to the distance one person is from the other, e-mail communication has the added component of being asynchronous -- not as connected in real time as instant messaging or face-to-face conversation.
"It seems likely that the asynchronicity of e-mail makes the users feel even more disconnected from the respondent in that a reply to their queries is not expected immediately, but rather is delayed until some future point in time," the researchers said in a statement.
The findings were published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.