Linguistic Harbingers of Betrayal:  A Case Study on an Online Strategy Game

Vlad Niculae, Srijan Kumar, Jordan Boyd-Graber, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil

Proceedings of ACL, 2015.


Data  (Readme)

Talk slides and video (prepared and presented by Vlad Niculae)

Spiffy paper page (prepared by Vlad Niculae)

Related research:         

                                    Conversational Behavior

                                    Anti-Social Computing



Sudden spike in affective imbalance before betrayal


Media coverage:

                                    The Wall Street Journal: When Diplomacy Leads to Betrayal

                                    New York Magazine: Here’s a Good Reason to Be Wary of Overly Polite People

                                    Pacific Standard: Detecting a Coming Betrayal

                                    CNN: Should you worry about people who are too polite?

                                    Huffington Post: What You Should Know About Really Polite People

                                    Ludology Podcast: GameTek Classic 112 - Betrayal

                                    ScienceNews: A few key signs betray betrayal



Interpersonal relations are fickle, with close friendships often dissolving into enmity. In this work, we explore linguistic cues that presage such transitions by studying dyadic interactions in an online strategy game where players form alliances and break those alliances through betrayal. We characterize friendships that are unlikely to last and examine temporal patterns that foretell betrayal.

We reveal that subtle signs of imminent betrayal are encoded in the conversational patterns of the dyad, even if the victim is not aware of the relationship’s fate. In particular, we find that lasting friendships exhibit a form of balance that manifests itself through language. In contrast, sudden changes in the balance of certain conversa­tional attributes—such as positive sentiment, politeness, or focus on future planning—signal impending betrayal.




  author={Vlad Niculae and Srijan Kumar and Jordan Boyd-Graber and

          Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil},

  title={{Linguistic harbingers of betrayal:

          A case study on an online strategy game}},

  booktitle={Proceedings of ACL},