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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. Santiago Sanchez-Pages & Marc Vorsatz, 2004. "An Experimental Study of Truth-Telling in a Sender-Receiver Game," ESE Discussion Papers 128, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  2. Tobias Lundquist & Tore Ellingsen & Erik Gribbe & Magnus Johannesson, 2009. "The Aversion to Lying," Post-Print hal-00674103, HAL.
  3. Andersen, Steffen & Fountain, John & Harrison, Glenn W. & Rutström, Elisabet E., 2009. "Estimating Subjective Probabilities," Working Papers 05-2009, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
  4. Daniel Houser & Erte Xiao, 2011. "Classification of natural language messages using a coordination game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 1-14, March.
  5. Daniel Houser & Stefan Vetter & Joachim Winter, 2011. "Fairness and Cheating," Working Papers 1019, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
  6. 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.
  7. Santiago Sanchez-Pages, 2007. "Enjoy the Silence: An Experiment on Truth-Telling," ESE Discussion Papers 155, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  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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