For example, Hancock and Toma's research on deception in online dating has found that around 80 percent of people pepper their profiles with "very, very small" lies, such as a man saying he's 6 feet tall, when he's really 5 feet 10 inches.
Fudging one's height is a minor cost with a major self-presentation benefit of looking more appealing to potential partners.
On the flip side, Hancock's recent study comparing deception in traditional resumes (the average American drops in three fibs) versus digital resumes posted on LinkedIn found fewer flagrant lies online.
In that case, misrepresenting a point, such as your tenure at a company, is easy to verify in an online network perhaps populated by other coworkers and employers -- and therefore too great of a risk.
Fingering a lie online ? and in-person ? also relies less on spotting specific factual slip-ups than noticing overall inconsistencies in how people present themselves.
"It's really important to know that there is no single cue that always predicts deception, and a lot of people will tell you differently," Hancock said. "And even more importantly, we're not very good as humans at judging deception. So, if someone's trying to lie to us, they have a leg up."
In fact, Hancock's advice for detecting deception online is a solid rule of thumb for pinpointing Pinocchios in the real world.
"One of my friends is a prison guard, and he and I were talking about some of our research, and he told me there's a saying among the guards that if something doesn't feel right, it's not," Hancock said. "The idea (with spotting online deception) is to pay attention to how you're feeling about things, and that if something doesn't feel quite right or is too good to be true, it probably is."