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Deception detection: How to spot a liar online

Determining who you can trust on social media sites can help you identify lies and deception. Sponsored by AARP.

SEATTLE — Everyone lies now and then, and research shows that most people lie once or less in a day. For others, though, lying is a habit.

“Most people lie a little bit, and a small number of people lie a lot,” said Jeffrey Hancock, Standford Professor and Founding Director of the Stanford Social Media Lab. “We call those folks prolific liars.”

Studies say that people who lie frequently also assume that other people, including their partners, lie a great deal. This is known as the deception consensus effect and is prevalent in politics.

“Politicians that lie a lot tend to accuse their opponents of lying a lot too,” Dr. Hancock said. “If you’re one of those prolific liars you’re going to be constantly suspicious of other people.”

According to Dr. Hancock's research, social media has actually not had any effect on how much we lie to people in our interpersonal circles. However, it has made it more difficult for people to spot liars.

If a person contacting you is unknown to you and not part of your interpersonal circle, they are more likely to be deceptive. This unknown network of people may say they want to get to know you or may offer you a product to buy, but often they are trying to take advantage of you or deceive you.

Dr. Hancock's biggest tip for spotting deception on social media? Know who and where messages are coming from. If a person who is a part of your interpersonal, known network contacts you, it’s typically safe to trust them. If someone in your unknown to you sends a message or you see a post from a news source you’ve never heard of, it’s smart to be suspicious and proceed with caution. This is similar to how you might interact with a stranger face-to-face.

Distinguishing who and what sources are part of your known and unknown networks can help prevent deception on social media.

Sign up now for AARP Washington's Free Online Speaker Series, "Sorting Fact from Fiction"

To help Washingtonians better sort fact from fiction, AARP, the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington and BECU are offering a four-part series of free online events called Sorting Fact from Fiction: Finding truth in an infodemic. The event is open to everyone. Pre-registration is required. Sign up now at AARP.org/factfromfiction

  • Sep. 16, 11 AM -- Jevin West, Confronting Misinformation: How to avoid falling for and spreading misinformation, disinformation, and “fake news”
  • Oct. 3, 11 AM -- Brett Johnson,  Inside the Mind of "The Original Internet Godfather": A former Dark Web mastermind details how scammers convince you to hand over your hard-earned money
  • Oct. 14,  6 PM -- Jeffrey Hancock, The Future of Lying: The new rules of deception and trust
  • Oct. 24, 11 AM -- David Mikkelson & Jevin West, The Truth is Out There: Fact checking tips and resources

KING 5's New Day Northwest presents Sorting Fact From Fiction. Sponsored by AARP Washington in partnership with the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington and BECU.  All segments available at king5.com/factfromfiction.