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White Lies

  • Sanjiv Erat

    ()

    (Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093)

  • Uri Gneezy

    ()

    (Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093)

In this paper we distinguish between two types of white lies: those that help others at the expense of the person telling the lie, which we term altruistic white lie s, and those that help both others and the liar, which we term Pareto white lies . We find that a large fraction of participants are reluctant to tell even a Pareto white lie, demonstrating a pure lie aversion independent of any social preferences for outcomes. In contrast, a nonnegligible fraction of participants are willing to tell an altruistic white lie that hurts them a bit but significantly helps others. Comparing white lies to those where lying increases the liar's payoff at the expense of another reveals important insights into the interaction of incentives, lying aversion, and preferences for payoff distributions. Finally, in line with previous findings, women are less likely to lie when it is costly to the other side. Interestingly though, we find that women are more likely to tell an altruistic lie. This paper was accepted by Teck Ho, decision analysis.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1110.1449
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Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

Volume (Year): 58 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (April)
Pages: 723-733

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Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:58:y:2012:i:4:p:723-733
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  1. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
  2. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," General Economics and Teaching 0303002, EconWPA.
  3. Navin Kartik, 2008. "Strategic Communication with Lying Costs," 2008 Meeting Papers 350, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Hitoshi Matsushima, 2007. "Role of Honesty in Full Implementation," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-518, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  5. Crawford, Vincent P., 2001. "Lying for Strategic Advantage: Rational and Boundedly Rational Misrepresentation of Intentions," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt6k65014s, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  6. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  7. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 8.
  8. 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, 01.
  9. Olivier Compte & Andrew Postlewaite, 2001. "Confidence-Enhanced Performance," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-023, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 May 2003.
  10. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 5.
  11. Christoph Vanberg, 2008. "Why Do People Keep Their Promises? An Experimental Test of Two Explanations -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1467-1480, November.
  12. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 6.
  13. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Martin Dufwenberg, 2005. "Dynamic Psychological Games," Working Papers 287, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  14. 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.
  15. Dufwenberg, Martin & Gneezy, Uri, 2000. "Measuring Beliefs in an Experimental Lost Wallet Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 163-182, February.
  16. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Croson, Rachel & Boles, Terry & Murnighan, J. Keith, 2003. "Cheap talk in bargaining experiments: lying and threats in ultimatum games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 143-159, June.
  20. Marco Ottaviani & Francesco Squintani, 2006. "Naive audience and communication bias," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 35(1), pages 129-150, December.
  21. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 7.
  22. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
  23. Dreber, Anna & Johannesson, Magnus, 2008. "Gender differences in deception," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 197-199, April.
  24. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 3.
  25. Nina Mazar & Dan Ariely, 2006. "Dishonesty in everyday life and its policy implications," Working Papers 06-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  26. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 4.
  27. Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), 2008. "Handbook of Experimental Economics Results," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 2.
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