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“Um, I can tell you're lying”: Linguistic markers of deception versus truth-telling in speech


Lying is a deliberate attempt to transmit messages that mislead others. Analysis of language behaviors holds great promise as an objective method of detecting deception. The current study reports on the frequency of use and acoustic nature of “um” and “like” during laboratory-elicited lying versus truth-telling. Results obtained using a within-participants false opinion paradigm showed that instances of “um” occur less frequently and are of shorter duration during lying compared to truth-telling. There were no significant differences in relation to “like.” These findings contribute to our understanding of the linguistic markers of deception behavior. They also assist in our understanding of the role of “um” in communication more generally. Our results suggest that “um” may not be accurately conceptualized as a filled pause/hesitation or speech disfluency/error whose increased usage coincides with increased cognitive load or increased arousal during lying. It may instead carry a lexical status similar to interjections and form an important part of authentic, effortless communication, which is somewhat lacking during lying.

Corresponding author
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Joanne Arciuli, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, P.O. Box 170, Lidcombe NSW 1825, Australia. E-mail:
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T. O. Meservy , M. L. Jensen , J. Kruse , J. K. Burgoon , & J. F. Nunamaker (2005). Automated extraction of deceptive behavioural cues from video. In P. Kantor (Ed.), Intelligence and security informatics (pp. 198208). Berlin: Springer.

M. O'Sullivan , & P. Ekman (2004). The wizards of deception detection. In P. A. Granhag & L. Stromwell (Eds.), The detection of deception in forensic contexts (pp. 269286). London: Cambridge University Press.

M. Zuckerman , B. M. DePaulo , & R. Rosenthal (Eds.). (1981). Verbal and nonverbal communication of deception. New York: Academic Press.

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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
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