Lying words: predicting deception from linguistic styles

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2003 May;29(5):665-75. doi: 10.1177/0146167203029005010.


Telling lies often requires creating a story about an experience or attitude that does not exist. As a result, false stories may be qualitatively different from true stories. The current project investigated the features of linguistic style that distinguish between true and false stories. In an analysis of five independent samples, a computer-based text analysis program correctly classified liars and truth-tellers at a rate of 67% when the topic was constant and a rate of 61% overall. Compared to truth-tellers, liars showed lower cognitive complexity, used fewer self-references and other-references, and used more negative emotion words.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Deception*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Semantics
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Videotape Recording
  • Vocabulary*