Liar, liar, pants on fire!
If you want an honest answer from a colleague, try asking the question in a letter rather than e-mail.
A recent study at Lehigh University found that people feel more comfortable lying in electronic messages than other kinds of communication, like pen and paper.
"We've known from other research that people react differently in e-mail than they do face-to-face, but this shows that intentional deception online may be a behavioral norm," said Liuba Belkin, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of management at Lehigh University.
Researchers gave full-time MBA students fake money to divide between themselves and another fictional party. Using either e-mail or pen-and-paper communications, the students reported the size of the pot — truthful or not — and how much the other party would get.
Less than 10 percent of those who used e-mail were truthful about the amount of money to be divided, while about 40 percent were honest in the pen-and-paper scenario.
"There's an anonymity that people seem to think they have in e-mail," said Terri Kurtzberg, an associate professor of management and global business at Rutgers University, who conducted the study with Belkin and Charles Naquin of DePaul University. "There's a psychological block and this feeling that speaking to someone online is just chitchat, while documenting something on paper feels more formal. But we know it's just the opposite: E-mails are easier to trace and harder to erase."
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