How To Tell When Your Boss Is Lying

I found this article in The Economist reporting on a study regarding lies on conference calls interesting.

David Larcker and Anastasia Zakolyukina of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business analysed the transcripts of nearly 30,000 conference calls by American chief executives and chief financial officers between 2003 and 2007. They noted each boss’s choice of words, and how he delivered them. They drew on psychological studies that show how people speak differently when they are fibbing, testing whether these “tells” were more common during calls to discuss profits that were later “materially restated”, as the euphemism goes. They published their findings in a paper called “Detecting Deceptive Discussions in Conference Calls”.

Here is a summary of the tells the researchers found.

  • more references to general knowledge rather than specific details
  • more extreme emotion words
  • avoiding “I” to mean taking ownership of results
  • fewer hesitation words
  • more frequent swear words

Here is where archives of work’s town hall meetings or even important emails could be very enlightening. Looking back through my own emails I obviously need to clean up my all too often references to “the DBAs” rather than “I”.

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