IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Harmful lie aversion and lie discovery in noisy expert advice games


  • Lightle, John P.


This study tests whether individuals are reluctant to tell lies, or perhaps only “harmful lies”, in a previously untested environment: an expert sending a message to a decision maker whose interpretation of that message is subject to error, i.e. a noisy sender–receiver game. In the Aligned treatment, the expert can send a “white lie” to the receiver, eliminating the negative effects of noise and improving both parties’ payoffs. In the Conflict treatment, lies are harmful and the inability to commit to truthtelling destroys all meaningful communication in equilibrium unless there is a cost of lying. In the experiment, receivers are overly trusting and experts learn to take advantage of this. As experts gain experience they tell stronger and more frequent lies in both treatments, consistent with models of reinforcement learning. The findings suggest that neither harmful nor universal lie aversion is a factor when communication is noisy, provided individuals have time to discover their personal benefits of lies.

Suggested Citation

  • Lightle, John P., 2013. "Harmful lie aversion and lie discovery in noisy expert advice games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 347-362.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:93:y:2013:i:c:p:347-362
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2013.04.006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2003. "Promises & Partnership," Research Papers in Economics 2003:3, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    2. Boles, Terry L. & Croson, Rachel T. A. & Murnighan, J. Keith, 2000. "Deception and Retribution in Repeated Ultimatum Bargaining," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 235-259, November.
    3. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Promises, Threats and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 397-420, April.
    4. Cai, Hongbin & Wang, Joseph Tao-Yi, 2006. "Overcommunication in strategic information transmission games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 7-36, July.
    5. Malmendier, Ulrike & Shanthikumar, Devin, 2007. "Are small investors naive about incentives?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 457-489, August.
    6. Sanjiv Erat & Uri Gneezy, 2012. "White Lies," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(4), pages 723-733, April.
    7. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
    8. Sanchez-Pages, Santiago & Vorsatz, Marc, 2007. "An experimental study of truth-telling in a sender-receiver game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 86-112, October.
    9. Lundquist, Tobias & Ellingsen, Tore & Gribbe, Erik & Johannesson, Magnus, 2009. "The aversion to lying," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 81-92, May.
    10. Navin Kartik, 2009. "Strategic Communication with Lying Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1359-1395.
    11. Matthias Sutter, 2009. "Deception Through Telling the Truth?! Experimental Evidence From Individuals and Teams," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(534), pages 47-60, January.
    12. Roth, Alvin E. & Erev, Ido, 1995. "Learning in extensive-form games: Experimental data and simple dynamic models in the intermediate term," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 164-212.
    13. Blume, Andreas & DeJong, Douglas V. & Kim, Yong-Gwan & Sprinkle, Geoffrey B., 2001. "Evolution of Communication with Partial Common Interest," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 79-120, October.
    14. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
    15. Board, Oliver J. & Blume, Andreas & Kawamura, Kohei, 2007. "Noisy talk," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(4), December.
    16. Colin Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho, 1999. "Experience-weighted Attraction Learning in Normal Form Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 827-874, July.
    17. Serra-Garcia, Marta & van Damme, Eric & Potters, Jan, 2011. "Hiding an inconvenient truth: Lies and vagueness," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 244-261, September.
    18. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1998. "The Theory of Learning in Games," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061945, January.
    19. Nagel, Rosemarie, 1995. "Unraveling in Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1313-1326, December.
    20. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    21. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2003. "Truth or Consequences: An Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(1), pages 116-130, January.
    22. Garvin, Susan & Kagel, John H., 1994. "Learning in common value auctions: Some initial observations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 351-372, December.
    23. Crawford, Vincent P & Sobel, Joel, 1982. "Strategic Information Transmission," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1431-1451, November.
    24. Sjaak Hurkens & Navin Kartik, 2009. "Would I lie to you? On social preferences and lying aversion," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(2), pages 180-192, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Glätzle-Rützler, Daniela & Lergetporer, Philipp, 2015. "Lying and age: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 12-25.
    2. Gilles Grolleau & Martin G. Kocher & Angela Sutan, 2014. "Cheating and Loss Aversion: Do People Lie More to Avoid a Loss?," CESifo Working Paper Series 4965, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Cappelen, Alexander W. & Sørensen, Erik Ø. & Tungodden, Bertil, 2013. "When do we lie?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 258-265.
    4. Gneezy, Uri & Saccardo, Silvia & van Veldhuizen, Roel, 2016. "Bribery: Greed versus reciprocity," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2016-203, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    5. Besancenot, Damien & Dubart, Delphine & Vranceanu, Radu, 2013. "The value of lies in an ultimatum game with imperfect information," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 239-247.

    More about this item


    Communication; Cheap talk; Overcommunication; Experts; Lie aversion;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:93:y:2013:i:c:p:347-362. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.