Deception is one of the most significant and pervasive social phenomena of our age (Miller & Stiff, 1993), and has frequently been the focus of communication and psychological inquiry. Knapp, Hart, and Dennis (1974) suggest deception is "publicly condemned, yet privately practiced by a significant proportion of the population" (p. 15). Given the prevalence of deception in interactions, and that deceptive acts affect our personal, academic and professional lives (Burgoon & Buller, 1994; McCornack & Levine, 1990a, Miller & Stiff, 1993), it is not surprising that deception research continues to flourish.
While many aspects of deception have been explored at length (e.g., detection of deception and identification of nonverbal cues), recent deception research has shifted toward examining deceptive message design (e.g., Bavelas, Black, Chovil, & Mullett, 1990; Burgoon, Buller, Guerrero, Afifi, Feldman, 1996; McCornack, 1992). This research, however, has viewed deceptive messages from a Western perspective, and has failed to consider how those from non-Western cultures might view deception and deceptive messages.
Examination of communication processes in different cultures is essential given that communication is not only an integral part of culture, but also the primary means whereby culture is transmitted (Hamnett & Brislin, 1980). Advances in communication technology and a shift toward a global economy will serve to increase opportunity for intercultural interaction. There is a vast amount of variability in interpersonal communication processes across cultures which has not been explored by those studies examining only one culture (Gudykunst & Ting-Toomey, 1988). The generalizability of those deception studies conducted in the United States is questionable without examining the role of culture (O'Hair, Cody, Wang, & Chao, 1990).
The goal of this paper to explore how those with both Western and non-Western cultural orientations view potentially deceptive messages. Specifically, the current study investigates Information Manipulation Theory (McCornack, 1992) in a multicultural population.
Deception, Deceptive Messages, and Information Manipulation Theory
The bulk of research on deception has centered around nonverbal deception cues (e.g., Ekman, 1985; Ekman & Friesen, 1974) and the detection of deception (e.g., DePaulo, Lanier, & Davis, 1983; McCornack & Levine, 1990b; McCornack & Parks, 1986; Toris & DePaulo, 1985). This research suggests that humans are generally poor deception detectors, likely to assume that others are truthful, and often leak deception cues nonverbally (see Kalbfleisch, 1985; Miller & Stiff, 1993; Zuckerman, DePaulo, & Rosenthal, 1981, for reviews).
Other researchers have viewed deception in terms of strategies used to deceive, and have formulated a number of typologies. These taxonomies include various labels for message types such as: "lies," "exaggerations," and "diversionary responses" (Turner et al., 1975), or "fictions," "crimes," and "unlies" (Hopper & Bell, 1984).
The content and production of deceptive messages have recently been examined in a different light by deception scholars (e.g., Bavelas et al., 1990; Galasinski, 1994; McCornack, 1992; McCornack, Levine, Solowczuk, Torres, & Campbell, 1992). Bavelas et al. (1990) define deception in a purely linguistic manner and argue that messages can range from true to false along a continuum. They also state that the ways in which messages are stated can range from clear to equivocal and suggest that people do not generally lie, they just avoid clear messages (Bavelas et al., 1990).
Expanding on the work of Bavelas and others (e.g., Metts, 1989; Turner et al., 1975), McCornack (1992) proposed Information Manipulation Theory (IMT). IMT is based on Grice's (1989) Cooperative Principle, and suggests that conversational understanding rests on the assumption that others are behaving in a cooperative manner. Specifically, Grice (1989) proposes that a conversational participant is expected to adhere to four conversational assumptions or maxims. Quantity refers to conversational participants' expectations concerning how much information should be provided in interaction. Participants in a conversation should make their contribution as informative as required (and not more informative; Grice, 1989). Quality concerns assumptions of the truthfulness of messages. Conversational participants should not present information that they know to be false. Relation involves expectations that participants will contribute information relevant to the topic of conversation as established by preceding discourse. The fourth maxim, manner, deals with not what is said, but how it is said. Participants should avoid ambiguity and obscurity, and present information in a clear and orderly fashion.
Consistent with other conceptualizations of deception (e.g., Levine, 1994; Miller, 1983), IMT suggests that deceptive communication may be defined as communication that intentionally misleads another. The difference between IMT and other conceptualizations of deceptive communication is that IMT proposes specific ways in which this deception might occur. That is, according to IMT, deception occurs when deceivers covertly (implying intent) violate one or more of the conversational assumptions regarding the quantity, quality, manner, and relevance of information. That is, IMT suggests that deceivers intentionally deceive others by violating these maxims knowing that other conversational participants are expecting them to operate under these maxims. Message receivers are deceived when they incorrectly assume that the speaker is behaving cooperatively (McCornack, 1992).
In a preliminary test of IMT, McCornack et al., (1992) found that messages that violated the maxims of quality, quantity, manner, or relevance were seen as significantly more deceptive than baseline/truthful messages. Further, messages violating the quality maxim were considered most deceptive of the four types. Similar results were obtained by Jacobs, Dawson and Brashers (1996), although Jacobs et al. draw different conclusions from their data, namely that all deception results from violations of quality (see Levine, 1998 and McCornack, Levine, Morrison & Lapinski, 1996 for replies).
One issue which has remained largely ignored by researchers of deception and deceptive messages, however, is culture. Nearly all of the studies examining deceptive communication have been from a Western perspective. Some relevant works, however, are evident and will be discussed in the following sections.
Deception and Culture
In a recent study of perception of deceptive messages, Yeung, Levine, & Nishida (1999) found that participants from Hong Kong saw violations of quality and relevance as the most deceptive of the message violations proposed by IMT. Although Yeung et al. found that violations of manner and quality did not differ significantly from a baseline honest message, they did find that, for all four maxims, perceptions of violations were correlated with perceptions of deceit. The authors suggest that differences in communicative expectations (e.g. preferences for directness) and social roles might account for these differences.
Lewis and Saarni (1993) address the issue of deception in non-Western, non-industrialized cultures from an anthropological standpoint. They discuss "simple societies" such as the Waika Indians of Orinoco, Venezuela, and suggest that in these cultures, deception typically centers around aggression or dominance and involves access to food and goods, or desirable mates. Gender knowledge is another common reason for deception in simple cultures, including women concealing information from men related to gender-specific practices. Lewis and Saarni (1993) suggest that individuals in these cultures deal with envy by using deception. By making themselves "unenviable" through deception, they avoid the risk of others' attempts to acquire their good fortune for themselves. It is also suggested that there are several deceptive behaviors that occur across cultures. These include deception centered around clandestine affairs, protecting one's possessions from a competitor, and feigning emotion one does not really feel (Lewis & Saarni, 1993).
Aune and Waters (1993), compared motivations for deception in Samoan and North American subjects. They found that the more collectivistic American Samoan participants indicated they would be more likely to deceive another if it were an issue related to family or other ingroup concerns. They found that North Americans are primarily motivated to deceive when they feel an issue is private or to protect the target person's feelings.
In a study of deceptive communication styles in Chinese immigrants, O'Hair et al., (1990), examined levels of vocal stress in truthful and deceptive messages. They found that Chinese exhibit higher levels of vocal stress when revealing negative emotions.
Other authors have examined the acceptability of various communication styles in negotiation. Nishiyama (1994) discusses deception in a cultural framework from an organizational perspective. He examined the tactics and behaviors of Japanese negotiators. Nishiyama suggests that there are a number of strategies and behaviors that are considered everyday business practice in Japan, yet are interpreted as deceptive by American business people. Some of these misinterpretations may stem from cultural misperceptions or from language difficulties. Commonly misunderstood messages include nonverbal behaviors and inconsistencies between official policy (tatemae) and true intentions (honne).
Similarly, the difference between the Japanese public self and private self has been discussed by Doi (1986). Doi suggests that in the United States it is extremely important for these two selves to remain consistent. When the public self deviates from the private self an individual is considered a hypocrite. In Japan, being polite and maintaining harmony is what is important. An individual's actual feelings about an action are unimportant (Doi, 1986; Triandis, 1989). Hence, in collectivist cultures, there is not as strong an emphasis on maintaining consistency between what one feels and what is said. In individualist cultures consistency between thoughts and actions is essential. This is not to say, however, that individualists always maintain consistency between thoughts and actions, but that there is greater emphasis placed on consistency by those from individualistic cultures.
Imai (1981) assesses how Japanese businessmen respond to requests that they cannot or will not fulfill. Imai (1981) suggests a number of the alternatives to the explicit word "no," including answers which sound fairly similar to …