Deception criteria

Published: 12 July 2021| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/grv2pnnf99.2
Liliia Tereshchenko


The hypothesis of our empirical research was that verbal signs of falsehood can be identified in written texts. Consequently, 15 markers that are likely to point at the falsity of the written text were identified and tested in different language backgrounds. The data are taken from authentic texts written by students in two languages: Ukrainian (their mother tongue) and English (first foreign language). Two hundred students voluntarily took part in the research. They were asked to describe events on a given topic (summer vacation) in two texts: one of them holding true information and the other message being false. One hundred participants wrote two texts each in Ukrainian, and one hundred participants (with estimated levels of English as B1-C1) produced truthful and false accounts in English. Student's t-test and Wilcoxon's T-test were used to categorize a statistically significant difference, as well as Spearman's correlation analysis was used to assess the relationship between the indicators. The data confirmed that regardless of the language (either Ukrainian or English) texts with true statements tend to be longer than the ones containing false information in most cases. They are also more intensively filled with emotional-sensory and spatial details, contain numerous references to the speaker’s opinion, experience, feelings (self-reference). False statements tend to actualize concepts different from those that are conveyed in true texts written by the same author on the same topic. The comparison of Ukrainian and English texts written by Ukrainian students showed that falsehood markers in the latter embrace ‘abundant’ lexical diversity (type-token ratio), irrelevance and/or redundancy of information, repetitions, and infrequent numerals. Ukrainian written texts containing untrue information, however, demonstrated violations in the chronology of events as well as context changes unjustified by the narrative perspective. Evidence shows that the following features were statistically insignificant, though present in ‘false’ written speech for both languages. These include the proportion between the prologue’s length to the entire text volume; the use of modifying adverbs; the use of ambiguous, non-specific nominations; spontaneous corrections in writing; frequent use of pronouns (the first person plural as well as the third person singular and plural). Conclusion. Statistical evidence shows that a number of verbal units help distinguish a false written text from a true one, despite the fact that by its nature false speech is a hidden code and imitation of any type of true speech. However, these criteria differ for texts written in the native and foreign languages, namely in Ukrainian and English.