Testing interpersonal deception theory: The language of interpersonal deception

David B. Buller, Judee K. Burgoon, Aileen Buslig, James Roiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


An analysis of verbal behavior was undertaken to test principles of interpersonal deception theory (IDT). It was predicted that language choice in deceptive messages would reflect strategic attempts to manage information through nonimmediate language. This linguistic profile, though, was expected to be altered in response to preinteractional factors - relational and behavioral familiarity - and interactional factors - form of deception and receiver suspicion. Results from two investigations are reported: a secondary analysis on interactions in an earlier study (Burgoon, Buller, Dillman, & Walther, 1995) and analysis of a primary experiment employing a 2 (relationship) × 2 (receiver expertise) × 2 (receiver suspicion) × 2 (truth/deception) within-subjects factorial design. As expected, senders displayed greater verbal nonimmediacy when deceiving. Expertise had a greater effect on linguistic behavior than a prior relationship with the receiver, with senders using more verbal nonimmediacy with novice receivers. Senders were more verbally nonimmediate when equivocating. Suspicion produced a mixed pattern of linguistic cues. The possibility that changes produced by preinteraction and interactional factors were strategic attempts to bolster credibility is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-289
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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