Award Date

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Jennifer A. Guthrie

Second Committee Member

Tara G. McManus

Third Committee Member

Lisa Menegatos

Fourth Committee Member

Emily Troshynski

Number of Pages



Social support and deception are both significant elements of close relationships. Social support involves verbal and nonverbal behaviors that are used when an individual is trying to help another person (Vangelisti, 2009). Social support is imperative to relationships, and as such, plays a large role within friendships, romantic relationships, and professional relationships alike. Research has suggested that friends in particular are one of the most enduring and irreplaceable sources of social support (Burleson, 1994; Burleson & Goldsmith, 1998; Floyd, 1995; Floyd & Parks, 1995). Thus, because friends comprise the strongest support system for many individuals, studying how deceptive communication functions within friendships could be very beneficial.

Additionally, deception is another aspect of close relationships that cannot be avoided. Deception involves a deliberate perpetuation of false information (O’Hair & Cody, 1994). It is often the case that in attempting to provide encouraging social support to their friends, individuals may feel the need to be deceptive in their communication. Individuals may feel the need to be honest with their friends, but may simultaneously want to provide a supportive message. Further, the truth may not always be the kindest version of support. Hence, when social support and deception intersect, a variety of tensions for a support provider may accompany it.

The present study intends to reveal more about the process individuals undergo when deciding whether to provide honest or deceptive supportive communication to friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. The study is focused on the motivations and expectations concerning social support and how best to provide it, as well as considerations of the support seeker. Provision of social support may not be as innate as it seems, as there are several challenges that arise in conjunction with being a provider. Implications for Politeness Theory and truth bias are also discussed. Methods for the current study entailed a seven day diary study, in which participants recorded their social support provision experiences and the emotions surrounding each instance. A follow-up survey was conducted to garner additional information from the study participants in regard to the study as a whole. Overall, it was revealed that friends were honest with each other more than they deceived each other, but the sense making that occurs in regard to support provision is anything but simple. In addition, the reasons why individuals provided the support they did, as well as insight into the provider’s sense making process are also illuminated.


Deception; Friendship; Politeness Theory; Social Support; White Lies



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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