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The first features we are going to extract are very simple features which relate to the length of statements. These features are very easy to extract and may may provide some cue about the veracity of a statement. In order to avoid being found out, people may give shorter and less detailed responses when they are lying. DePaulo, Lindsay, Malone, Muhlenbruck, Charlton, & Cooper (2003) review evidence from 120 studies about 158 different cues to deception. They find some evidence that liars are less “forthcoming” than truth-tellers (Table 3, p. 91; reproduced below). For example, liars spend significantly less time talking than truth-tellers (d = -0.35). They also provide significantly fewer details when they respond (d = -0.30). Although, the authors find no significant differences between liars and truth-tellers and liars in response length per se. Nevertheless, because people seem to provide less information in various ways when lying than when telling the truth, it is worth trying to extract some proxy for this in our present dataset – which may be provided by various measures of statement length.


Again, I will start by loading relevant packages.

library(tidyverse) # cleaning and visualization
library(quanteda) # text analysis

Load Data

Again, since this is a new analysis, I must load in the data that will be analyzed. This will be the cleaned tabular data structure I created just earlier in Feature Extraction (Overview).

# this loads: stats_clean (a data-frame of out cleaned statements)

Number of words

Number of words (example)

I am now going to go through each of the statements and count the number of words in each statement.

I will begin with an example on a single sentence, just for illustration. The sentence I will use will be “Ithaca can get very cold in the winter”, a sentence with eight words. By applying the ntoken() function from the quanteda package, we can count the number of words in this sentence, as show below.

# Create sentence
example_sent <- c("Ithaca can get very cold in the winter.")
## [1] "Ithaca can get very cold in the winter."
# Extract number of words in sentence
n_words_example <-
  ntoken(x = example_sent,
         remove_punct = TRUE) # remove punctuation when counting words

# Print output
print(paste("# words in sentence = ",
            sep = ""))
## [1] "# words in sentence = 8"

Number of words (full dataset)

We will now simply apply this function to all of the 5004 statements in our dataset, and this will give us a count for the number of words in each statement!

# store results in new column in the stats_clean2 data frame
stats_clean$n_words <-
  ntoken(x = stats_clean$statement,
         remove_punct = TRUE) 

Number of words (results)

Let’s take a look at what this gives us.


Across all our statements, here’s what the distribution of word lengths looks like. From examining this histogram, it looks like most sentences have about 40-100 words, but a few sentences have many more words. Thus distribution is definitely skewed. We will just note that for now. (We may later transform this data, to adjust that skew, when building various models.)

ggplot(data = stats_clean,
       aes(x = n_words)) +
  geom_histogram() +
  labs(title = "Histogram of Word Counts Across Statements") +
  theme(plot.title = element_text(hjust = 0.5))
## `stat_bin()` using `bins = 30`. Pick better value with `binwidth`.

Empirical Cumulative Distribution

A better way to visualize the nature of this skewed distribution might be with a plot of the Empirical Cumulative Distribution (ECD), which charts the values of a variable in sequential order on the x-axis, and charts the cumulative percentage of values which fall at or below that value on the y-axis. As we can see from this plot, more than 95% of statements are below 100 words. Most statments (i.e. the “middle” 90% of the statements, which I highlighted between the red lines) seem to be between about 35 and 100 words.

ggplot(data = stats_clean,
       aes(x = n_words)) +
  stat_ecdf(geom = "step") +
  labs(y = "proportion of statements at or below this length",
       title = "Empirical Cumulative Distribution of Word Counts") +
  scale_y_continuous(breaks = seq(from = 0,
                                  to = 1.0,
                                  by = 0.1)) +
  scale_x_continuous(breaks = seq(from = 0,
                                  to = 500,
                                  by = 25)) +
  geom_hline(yintercept = 0.05,
             color = "red",
             linetype = "dashed") +
  geom_hline(yintercept = 0.95,
             color = "red",
             linetype = "dashed") +
  theme(plot.title = element_text(hjust = 0.5),
        axis.text.x = element_text(angle = 45))

Exact Percentiles

In fact, we can compute the percentiles more exactly. Here are the number of words at the following percentiles: 1%, 5%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 95%, 99%.

         probs = c(0.01,
                   0.99))) %>%
  rename_at(1, ~ "n_words")

Long Statements

So what are those really long statments? Let’s have a look. I am going to arrange the statements by number of words, starting with the longest ones first. From looking at this output, we can note two things. First, there are really just a handful of statements that are way outside of the norm. And second, the extraordinarily long responses seem to be genuine responses where the participant simply just wrote a lot.

stats_clean %>%
  arrange(desc(n_words)) %>%