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Lying: An Experimental Investigation of the Role of Situational Factors


  • Ackert, Lucy F.
  • Church, Bryan K.
  • Kuang, Xi (Jason)
  • Qi, Li


Individuals often lie for psychological rewards (e.g., preserving self image and/or protecting others), absent economic rewards. We conducted a laboratory experiment, using a modified dictator game, to identify conditions that entice individuals to lie solely for psychological rewards. We argue that such lies can provide a ready means for individuals to manage others’ impression of them. We investigated the effect of social distance (the perceived familiarity, intimacy, or psychological proximity between two parties) and knowledge of circumstances (whether parties have common or asymmetric information) on the frequency of lying. We found that lying occurs more frequently when social distance is near and that the effect is exacerbated when information is asymmetric. Our theoretical development suggests that, under these conditions, individuals’ need to manage others’ impression is magnified. We discuss the implications of our findings.

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  • Ackert, Lucy F. & Church, Bryan K. & Kuang, Xi (Jason) & Qi, Li, 2011. "Lying: An Experimental Investigation of the Role of Situational Factors," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(4), pages 605-632, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:buetqu:v:21:y:2011:i:04:p:605-632_01

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    Cited by:

    1. Chris Perryer & Brenda Scott-Ladd, 2014. "Deceit, Misuse and Favours: Understanding and Measuring Attitudes to Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 121(1), pages 123-134, April.
    2. Stacey Sanders & Barbara Wisse & Nico W. Yperen & Diana Rus, 2018. "On Ethically Solvent Leaders: The Roles of Pride and Moral Identity in Predicting Leader Ethical Behavior," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 150(3), pages 631-645, July.
    3. Ethan LaMothe & Donna Bobek, 2020. "Are Individuals More Willing to Lie to a Computer or a Human? Evidence from a Tax Compliance Setting," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 167(2), pages 157-180, November.
    4. Hoffmann, Mareike & Lauer, Thomas & Rockenbach, Bettina, 2013. "The royal lie," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 305-313.

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