A new study sought to understand whether it is possible to decipher whether a person is lying or not, considering only the tone of his voice. According to the results, those who speak with increasing intonation, reducing the emphasis at the beginning of each syllable and at a slower speed, are generally considered the most dishonest.
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The research, published in the scientific journal Nature, was carried out with 115 volunteers from different countries. Scientists have concluded that it is possible to quickly identify a lie based on this melodic pattern, regardless of the language spoken. This pattern is analyzed by prosody, part of the linguistics that studies the intonation and rhythm of speech, and scientists have sought to find out if there is a universal prosody for lying and if it can be detected by the listener.
To solve this mystery, four separate experiments were carried out. The first was done with people who speak French, and they needed to hear hundreds of meaningless words that were similar to the language. So, they had to rate what they heard in levels of honesty and lying, and how assertive they thought the speaker was being. The results showed that the statements most classified as honest were those with a descending intonation, that is, the highest ones at the beginning of the words, and those that were spoken faster.
In the second experiment, listeners needed to hear a series of spoken pseudo-words, but given context. One of the situations, for example, was contextualized as a game of poker, with participants needing to distinguish whether the speaker was bluffing for opponents or not. The second experiment had consistent results compared to the first, with listeners considering the same intonation for the most honest participants. The dishonest ones, on the other hand, had the slowest speech and with more emphasis on intonation in the middle of words.
The survey also recruited people who spoke English and Spanish to find out if the results were the same as studies in the French language, and the response was positive. Thus, speakers of different languages have the same speech pattern when lying. Finally, the researchers asked the participants to remember made-up words they had heard, and the most remembered were those coming from dishonest statements, suggesting that this way of speaking stands out and draws more attention.
Based on the results, the scientists also concluded that people acquired an auditory adaptation that detects and reacts quickly to lies during conversations. You can consult the complete study at this link.