Cass academics design an algorithm that can detect lies in emails

July 5, 2016, City University London
Credit: City University London

The algorithm works by identifying linguistic cues of deception found within a computer-mediated communication (CMC) system such as emails.

The team applied automated to an archive of emails to assess the ability of word use (micro-level), message development (macro-level), and intertextual exchange cues (meta-level) to detect the severity of being perpetrated within a business framework.

The full paper, 'Untangling a Web of Lies: Exploring Automated Detection of Deception in Computer-Mediated Communication' will be published in Journal of Management Information Systems.

Their findings indicate that:

  • Deceitful e-mailers avoid the use of personal pronouns and superfluous descriptions such as unnecessary adjectives.
  • Deceitful e-mailers over structure their arguments.
  • Deceitful e-mailers minimise self-deprecation but include more flattery and pattern the linguistic style of the recipient across e-mail exchanges, because they want to make themselves appear more accommodating and likeable.

The algorithm's practical implications for business are wide-ranging. Organisations that rely on communicating and exchanging information and requests via CMC systems such as email can use the identified linguistic cues for deception and train managers to improve their intuitive skills for judging incoming e-mails.

Dr Tom van Laer, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Cass Business School, said: "This research opens up the possibility of fraud prevention and deception detection technology across lots of in-person domains, not just e-mail. Our approach comes from big data - combining statistics with patterns that tip us off to deception. Authorities and companies will now be able to figure out the plausibility of fraud and identify lying individuals."

Ko de Ruyter, Professor of Marketing at Cass Business School, said: "Everybody lies and most companies realise that the customer is not always right. In fact, customers can often be dishonest and it is costing companies a lot of money. Our lie detection software can help companies to assess whether their customers bend the truth in their favour and to decide whether they want to continue doing with them."

While the research does not offer insight into how to deal with deceivers, the software can help organisations streamline their investigations into fraudulent communications and modify their auditing processes for messages that have been automatically pre-classified as potentially severely deceitful.

Explore further: From dating profiles to Brexit—how to spot an online lie

More information: Stephan Ludwig et al. Unweaving a Tangled Web: Exploring Automated Detection of Deception Cues in Online Claims within B2B Incentive Programs, SSRN Electronic Journal (2015). DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2576197

Related Stories

From dating profiles to Brexit—how to spot an online lie

June 29, 2016

There are three things you can be sure of in life: death, taxes – and lying. The latter certainly appears to have been borne out by the UK's recent Brexit referendum, with a number of the Leave campaign's pledges looking ...

Detecting deception online is not so easy, says professor

March 10, 2015

The sheer number of phishing scams that bombard our inboxes is an indication of the success scammers have in deceiving people through electronic communication. It is such a prevalent problem that some businesses are now taking ...

People more likely to lie when texting: research

December 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Text messaging leads people to be more deceitful when compared to other modes of communication, according to Sauder School of Business researchers at the University of British Columbia.

New study finds group discussion improves lie detection

June 11, 2015

Though many people believe they can recognize when someone is lying, detecting deception is difficult. Accuracy rates in experiments have proven to be only slightly greater than chance, even among trained professionals.

Recommended for you

What do you get when you cross an airplane with a submarine?

February 15, 2018

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed the first unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of traveling both through the air and under the water – transitioning repeatedly between sky and sea. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.