Liars take longer to reply because they're making up stories.

London - Have you ever noticed an awkward pause in the middle of a text message conversation?

New research suggests that you should be suspicious of those pregnant pauses.

US researchers have discovered that people who are lying in digital messages take longer to respond.

The study also found when people lie in digital messages – texts, social media, e-mail, and instant messages – they make more edits and write shorter responses than usual.

“Digital conversations are a fertile ground for deception because people can easily conceal their identity and their messages often appear credible,” said Dr Tom Meservy, from Brigham Young University in Utah.

“Unfortunately, humans are terrible at detecting deception. We’re creating methods to correct that.”

According to Meservy, humans can detect lies about 54 percent of the time if they are lied to in person.

It is even harder to tell when someone is lying through a digital message because you cannot hear a voice or see an expression.

Meservy and fellow professor Dr Jeffrey Jenkins, along with colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Arizona, set up an experimental instrument that tracked possible cues of online lying.

The researchers created a computer program that carried out online conversations with participants. More than 100 students from two universities had conversations with the computer, which asked them 30 questions each.

The participants were told to lie in about half of their responses.

The researchers found responses filled with lies took 10 percent longer to create and were edited more than truthful messages.

“We are starting to identify signs given off by individuals that aren’t easily tracked by humans,” Meservy said. “The potential is that chat-based systems could be created to track deception in real time.”

The findings appear online this week in the academic information systems journal ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems.

Meservy and Jenkins, who co-wrote the study report, said we shouldn’t automatically assume someone is lying if they take longer to respond, but the study does provide some general patterns.

The researchers are furthering this line of research by using a variety of other sensors, including Microsoft’s Kinect to track human behaviour and see how it connects with deception.

“We are just at the beginning of this,” Jenkins said.

“We need to collect a lot more data.” – Daily Mail