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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Language of low-stakes and high-stakes deception : differences within individuals Le, Marina Tam


Every person tells lies and does so in a variety of contexts. Further, there are groups of individuals who are more inclined to deceive and manipulate others, such as the Dark Triad collection of personalities (psychopathy, Machiavellianism, narcissism). Deception is often categorized into low-stakes and high-stakes deception. Low-stakes deception typically has no or minimal consequences for the deceiver. In contrast, high-stakes deception involves serious consequences for the deceiver, such as becoming incarcerated if caught lying about committing murder. Despite the abundance of research conducted on the cues indicative of low- and high-stakes deception, little is known about how individuals deceive in different lying scenarios. This thesis examined the verbal cues of deception in individuals within both low- and high-stakes settings. The purpose of the current thesis was threefold. First, the study sought to examine whether verbal cues of deception were apparent in comparison to honest speech and whether the linguistic cues in low-stakes lies were more pronounced in high-stakes lies. Secondly, the present study investigated whether Dark Triad individuals felt less negative emotion across the two lying scenarios in comparison to those without dark personalities. Finally, the study sought to see if Dark Triad individuals were more successful at deception in comparison to their counterparts. For the first research question, results revealed that word count, emotional tone, and the usage of personal pronouns showed variability across low- and high-stakes scenarios. Specifically, word count was found to be higher in low-stakes truths in comparison to low-stakes lies, but the reverse was found for high-stakes sessions. Additionally, more emotional tone and personal pronouns were found in low-stakes lies than in high-stakes lies. In regards to the second research question, results showed that dark personalities (known to have low empathy for others and callousness) did not experience a different pattern of emotions across low- and high-stakes settings in comparison to their counterparts. Finally, the present study demonstrated that Dark Triad individuals were no better at deception than those who scored lower on these traits. The implications of these findings and future directions for research are discussed.

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