Communications professors David B. Buller and Judee K. Burgoon published their Interpersonal deception theory in the August 1996 issue of Communication Theory. The professors conducted more than 25 experiments in which the participants were asked to deceive another person. The professors explained that people often make statements that are not completely honest. Some reasons for this are to avoid offending someone or hurting their feelings, to avoid conflict, or to slow down or speed up a relationship.
Prior to this theory, research had focused on formulating principles of deception. These principles were developed by evaluating the ability of individuals to detect deception in unidirectional conversations. Buller and Burgoon felt this ignored the dynamics involved in one to one (interpersonal) communications. Their work merges interpersonal communication theory with the earlier principles of lie detection.
Buller and Burgoon noted three strategies people use to deceive others. Falsification involves creating a fiction. Concealment is used to hide something. Equivocation allows one to avoid an issue. All of these fit the theorists’ concept that defines deception as “a message knowingly transmitted to foster a false belief or conclusion within the receiver.
Research shows that most people believe they are very adept at detecting deception in interpersonal interactions. They listen and look for nonverbal clues from the sender. Failure to maintain eye contact, shifting eyes, and fidgeting are often thought to be an indication of when someone is being deceptive. Interpersonal deception theory found that people are, in fact, not very good at recognizing deception in other people. Buller and Burgoon also state that the nonverbal clues often used are not always predictable indicators of someone being deceitful.
The professors maintain that people are constantly adjusting their behavior based on feedback (verbal and nonverbal) received from the other person. Just as...