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Luck or cheating? A field experiment on honesty with children

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  • Bucciol, Alessandro
  • Piovesan, Marco

Abstract

We run an experiment to study the relationship between honesty, age and self-control. We focus on children aged between 5 and 15 as the literature suggests that self-control develops within such age range. We ask each child to toss a fair coin in private and to record the outcome (white or black) on a paper sheet. We only reward children who report white. Although we are unable to tell whether each child was honest or not, we speculate about the proportion of reported white outcomes. Children report the prize-winning outcome at rates statistically above 50% but below 100%. Moreover, the probability of cheating is uniform across groups based on child's characteristics, in particular age. In a second treatment we explicitly tell children not to cheat. This request has a dampening effect on their tendency to over-report the prize-winning outcome, especially in girls. Furthermore, while this effect in boys is constant with age, in girls it tends to decrease with age.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Psychology.

Volume (Year): 32 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 73-78

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Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:32:y:2011:i:1:p:73-78

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep

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Keywords: Honesty Cheating Children Field experiment;

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  1. Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "White-Collar Crime Writ Small: A Case Study of Bagels, Donuts, and the Honor System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 290-294, May.
  2. Wenzel, Michael, 2005. "Misperceptions of social norms about tax compliance: From theory to intervention," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 862-883, December.
  3. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
  4. William T. Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Lise Vesterlund, 2003. "Learning to Bargain," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2004-9, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 01 Nov 2003.
  5. Sutter, Matthias, 2007. "Outcomes versus intentions: On the nature of fair behavior and its development with age," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 69-78, January.
  6. Gerald J. Pruckner & Rupert Sausgruber, 2008. "Honesty on the Streets - A Natural Field Experiment on Newspaper Purchasing," Working Papers 2009-24, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  7. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
  8. Nina Mazar & Dan Ariely, 2006. "Dishonesty in everyday life and its policy implications," Working Papers 06-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  9. William T. Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Timothy R. Berry, 2001. "GARP for Kids: On the Development of Rational Choice Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1539-1545, December.
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