This Is What Pausing Before You Answer Says About You, According to Psychologists

When answering a question, your silence could say additional than your phrases. A new psychology examine has uncovered pausing just before replying, even for just a couple of seconds, can make you feel a lot more insincere or dishonest.


Even when listeners are told to ignore your pauses, they’re nevertheless a lot more very likely to choose a slower reaction as additional of a ‘slow lie’.

That perception of dishonesty may possibly not be way too inaccurate, possibly. Many scientific studies in the lab and in true existence propose people today are slower to respond when they are not remaining truthful, quite possibly due to the fact it normally takes additional psychological function to inhibit a truthful reaction or fabricate an alternate.

What’s been much less crystal clear is how well our lies have been fooling individuals. Some research counsel delayed solutions arrive throughout as insincere to the listener. Others find no romantic relationship in between the two, and nonetheless more have located the reverse: That a little bit of hesitation increases our perceptions of sincerity.

These findings are inconsistent and perplexing. They are also generally primarily based on correlations. Even the handful of scientific tests that have in fact seemed at causal relationships often failed to think about confounding factors that could also give away a liar or an insincere speaker. 

The new investigate seeks to solution some of individuals limits by inspecting thousands of folks under a wide variety of ailments. Collectively, it entails a lot more than 7,500 individuals from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France in a total of 14 experiments. 


Each of these checks was developed to figure out how individuals rated gradual responses in two different contexts. The very first reaction was centered on regardless of whether or not a person favored a cake that a buddy experienced created. The second reaction was about a criminal offense that experienced occurred in the office.

Individuals both listened to these issues and answers as an audio snippet, watched a movie, or examine an account. They then rated the sincerity of the actor supplying the response. 

On the entire, the authors observed an quick reaction was perceived as more sincere, though a delayed response, even a hold off as short as two seconds, was observed as extra insincere.

“Analyzing other people’s sincerity is a ubiquitous and crucial element of social interactions,” says shopper conduct researcher Ignazio Ziano at the Grenoble Ecole de Management in France.

“Our investigation exhibits that response speed is an crucial cue on which individuals base their sincerity inferences.”

The findings were being steady throughout cultures and contexts, despite the fact that some circumstances had more compact results. This indicates individuals have a “innovative comprehension” of what reaction speed means in unique contexts, the authors say.


In the cake circumstance, for occasion, exactly where one particular of the answers was deemed socially insulting (“No, I never like your cake”), response speed did not subject to as significantly of an extent.

This suggests concerns like ‘Do you like my cake?’ have an envisioned reaction. A shorter pause is, for that reason, possible to be dismissed by the listener.

On the other hand, in a a lot more really serious location, in which an individual was requested about thieving a little something in the office, hesitation was located to suggest deception or guilt to a significantly a lot quicker diploma. In other words, there was considerably less home for hesitancy to be excused.

That said, even in a legal location, there were some refined dissimilarities in context. If a slower response was warranted – for instance, if a criminal offense experienced took place several years in the past and would take some mental hard work to remember – the velocity of someone’s reaction was fewer critical to their perceived sincerity. 

In this situation, individuals did not feel the slow reaction indicated suppression of the truth, just that the individual was hesitating to come across the truth.

These results have essential implications in a wide range of social interactions, but 1 of the most obvious is in our knowing of jury reactions to court testimony. 

“It would be unfair for the responder, such as a criminal offense suspect, if the response hold off was misattributed to considered suppression or respond to fabrication when it was in actuality prompted by a various component, this sort of as basically being distracted or considerate,” clarifies Ziano. 

Sadly, even when individuals had been instructed to overlook the reaction delays in one of the experiments, it only diminished their perception of insincerity it did not wholly eliminate it.

In basic, even so, Ziano claims their review reveals any time there is a query that necessitates an solution, these kinds of as in a career job interview, rapid responses appear more sincere.

The research was printed in the Journal of Temperament and Social Psychology