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Honest Lies

  • Li Hao


    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Daniel Houser


    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

We report data from a two-stage prediction game, where the accuracy of predictions (in the first stage) regarding die roll outcomes (in the second stage) is rewarded using a proper scoring rule. Thus, given the opportunity to self-report the die roll outcomes, participants have an incentive to bias their predictions to maximize elicitation payoffs. However, we find participants to be surprisingly unresponsive to this incentive, despite clear evidence that they cheated when self-reporting die roll outcomes. These data lend support to Akerlof's (1983) suggestion that people may prefer to appear honest without actually being honest. In particular, the vast majority (95%) of our subjects were willing to incur a cost to preserve an honest appearance. At the same time, only 44% exhibited intrinsic preference for honesty. Moreover, we found that after establishing an honest appearance people cheat to the greatest possible extent. These results suggest that "incomplete cheating" behavior frequently reported in the literature can be attributed more to a preference for maintaining appearances than an intrinsic aversion to maximum cheating.

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Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1021.

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Length: 31
Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1021
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  1. Daniel Houser & Erte Xiao, 2011. "Classification of natural language messages using a coordination game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 1-14, March.
  2. Houser, Daniel & Vetter, Stefan & Winter, Joachim, 2010. "Fairness and Cheating," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 335, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  3. Sjaak Hurkens & Navin Kartik, 2009. "Would I lie to you? On social preferences and lying aversion," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 180-192, June.
  4. Santiago Sánchez-Pagés & Marc Vorsatz, 2009. "Enjoy the silence: an experiment on truth-telling," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 220-241, June.
  5. Steffen Andersen & John Fountain & Glenn W. Harrison & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2010. "Estimating Subjective Probabilities," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2010-08, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  6. 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.
  7. Tobias Lundquist & Tore Ellingsen & Erik Gribbe & Magnus Johannesson, 2009. "The Aversion to Lying," Post-Print hal-00674103, HAL.
  8. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Promises, Threats and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 397-420, 04.
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