How to tell if a CEO is lying

How to tell if a CEO is lying

The Economist summarizes a study from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business showing how to tell when a CEO is lying:

Deceptive bosses, it transpires, tend to make more references to general knowledge (“as you know…”), and refer less to shareholder value (perhaps to minimise the risk of a lawsuit, the authors hypothesise). They also use fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words”. That is, instead of describing something as “good”, they call it “fantastic”. The aim is to “sound more persuasive” while talking horsefeathers.

By analyzing the linguistic features present during 30,000 conference calls by CEOs and CFOs the study also found:

[D]eceptive CEOs use significantly fewer self-references, more third person plural and impersonal pronouns, more extreme positive emotions, fewer extreme negative emotions, and fewer certainty and hesitation words.

Give CEOs a pencil and paper and listen well, and you too can detect horsefeathers.