Definitional Paper

For many years deception has been the study of research in the field of communication. Research has been done in the area of deception detection in general and close relationships (Park, et al., 2002; Anderson, Ansfield, & DePaulo, 1997). In this paper several definitions will be stated and critiqued based on two terms in the research problem.

Research has shown that many people involved in close relationships have a hard time detecting deception, research in the area of deception detection in marriage relationships would be helpful. In this paper the question being proposed for research is: How do people in marriage relationships detect deception? Several sub questions are brought forth as well: What types of deceptive communication characterize marriage relationships? How do these patterns of detection vary as a function of the type of relationship in which they occur? What reasons do persons in marriage relationships offer to justify deception to their spouse? How do these reasons vary as a function of the number of years married? In what ways are relationship qualities such as satisfaction and closeness associated with patterns of deceptive communication in marriage relationships? In what ways are relationship qualities such as satisfaction and closeness associated with reason for deception in marriage relationships?

The first key term to be defined is deception detection. Deception detection has been operationalized in many studies and defining deception detection conceptually was done here separately. The first school of thought states that deception is spoken or acted. Black’s Law Dictionary defines deception as “Intentional misleading by falsehood spoken or acted. Knowingly and willfully making a false statement or representation, express or implied, pertaining to a present or past existing fact” (1990, p. 406). This definition can be helpful because it states that deception can be acted as well as spoken.

The second school of thought defines detection as something hidden and also uses the word investigation. Black’s Law dictionary says “A discovery or laying open of that which was hidden; investigation” (p. 449). This definition is helpful because it states that detection is hidden. This definition can be criticized for being too broad.

The third school of thought defining deception uses the idea that deception is a belief. According to Blair, Nelson, and Coleman deception is “The intentional misrepresentation of information in order to induce in another person a belief the deceiver knows to be untrue” (2001, p.p. 57-58). This definition can be criticized for not saying deception is an action. For example a wife buys a new pair of shoes; she does not want her husband to know how much she spent on the shoes so she pulls the price tag off the shoes and places them in her closet with the rest of her clothes so the husband will not notice. This would be an action of deception not belief.

One operational definition of deception detection was done by questioning 202 undergraduate students enrolled at large Midwestern universities (Park, et al., 2002, p. 149). These 202 participants in this study were asked to remember a recent situation where they found someone had lied to them. The participants were told to remember as much of the situation as they could while they answered questions to a questionnaire they were given that contained five open-ended questions and two demographic items. This operational definition can be criticized because the results of this study show that most of the participants found they had been lied to through third party information. Third party information may not always be a reliable source.

The second operational definition was done in a study. One member of a same sex friendship was told to tell a true or fabricated story from their life in a conversation with the friend. The friend was to determine if the story was a lie or a truth. This operational definition would be good to help strengthen ones deception detection skills, but this definition is not ethically sound. It would be a 50% change the friend would be right or wrong.

A key term from a sub question is deceptive communication. Metts definition of deceptive communication is similar to the definition Blair, Nelson, and Coleman use to define deception. Metts says “Deceptive communication refers to message distortion resulting deliberate falsification or omission of information by a communicator with the intent of simulating in another, or others, a belief that the communicator himself or herself does not believe” (1986, p. 497). This definition can be criticized because it is not narrow enough to focus on deception within marriage relationships.

The second key term to be defined is marriage relationships. Marriage relationships is usually defined or thought of as a union or as the Encyclopedia of Social Work defines marriage relationship as “two adults who enter a voluntary social arrangement that is created or constructed through reciprocal interaction over time” (1995. p. 1665). This definition can be helpful because it states the variable of time. This variable helps to define that a marriage is built over a period of time.

A second school of thought is stated in more legal terms. In the Oxford Dictionary of Sociology it states “Marriage is traditionally conceived to be a legally recognized relationship between an adult male and female” (1998, p. 389). This definition is helpful because it does not include all relationships in a “traditional” male, female marriage relationship.
This research paper has proposed the research question: How do people in marriage relationships detect deception? In this paper two key terms deception detection and marriage relationships were defined as well as the term deceptive communication.

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