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Promises and Lies: An Experiment on Detecting Deception

Listed author(s):
  • Jingnan (Cecilia) Chen

    ()

    (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)

Although economic and social relationships can involve deception (Gneezy 2005), such relationships are often governed by informal contracts that require trust (Berg et al. 1995). While important advances have been made concerning deception in economics, the research has focused little on written forms of communication. Are there certain systematic cues that signal written communications as dishonest? Are those signals accurately detected and used by message receivers? We fill this gap by studying messages written in a novel three-person trust game (we call it the “Mistress Game†). We find that: (i) messages that use encompassing terms, or a greater number of words, are significantly more likely to be viewed as promises; and (ii) promises that mention money are significantly more likely to be trusted. Notwithstanding the latter finding, we find senders who mention money within their promises to be significantly less likely to keep their word than those who do not. Length: 36

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File URL: http://www.gmu.edu/schools/chss/economics/icesworkingpapers.gmu.edu/pdf/1038.pdf
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Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1038.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision: Feb 2013
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1038
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  1. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
  2. Jian Li & Erte Xiao & Daniel Houser & P. Read Montague, 2009. "Neural Responses to Sanction Threats in Two-Party Economic Exchange," Working Papers 1012, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
  3. Donja Darai & Silvia Gr�tz, 2010. "Determinants of Successful Cooperation in a Face-to-Face Social Dilemma," SOI - Working Papers 1006, Socioeconomic Institute - University of Zurich, revised Nov 2010.
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  5. Brosig, Jeannette, 2002. "Identifying cooperative behavior: some experimental results in a prisoner's dilemma game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 275-290, March.
  6. Roman M. Sheremeta & Jingjing Zhang, 2009. "Multi-Level Trust Game with “Insider” Communication," Working Papers 09-08, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  7. Gerald J. Pruckner & Rupert Sausgruber, 2008. "Honesty on the Streets - A Natural Field Experiment on Newspaper Purchasing," Working Papers 2009-24, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  8. 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.
  9. Rietz, Thomas A. & Sheremeta, Roman M. & Shields, Timothy W. & Smith, Vernon L., 2013. "Transparency, efficiency and the distribution of economic welfare in pass-through investment trust games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 257-267.
  10. Rosaz, Julie & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2012. "Lies and biased evaluation: A real-effort experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 537-549.
  11. Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "White-Collar Crime Writ Small: A Case Study of Bagels, Donuts, and the Honor System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 290-294, May.
  12. Carl Mellström & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Crowding Out in Blood Donation: Was Titmuss Right?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(4), pages 845-863, 06.
  13. Isaac, R Mark & Walker, James M, 1988. "Communication and Free-Riding Behavior: The Voluntary Contribution Mechanism," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 585-608, October.
  14. Topi Miettinen & Sigrid Suetens, 2008. "Communication and Guilt in a Prisoner's Dilemma," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 52(6), pages 945-960, December.
  15. Houser, Daniel & Vetter, Stefan & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Fairness and cheating," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1645-1655.
  16. Belot, Michèle & Bhaskar, V. & van de Ven, Jeroen, 2010. "Promises and cooperation: Evidence from a TV game show," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 396-405, March.
  17. 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.
  18. Bucciol, Alessandro & Piovesan, Marco, 2011. "Luck or cheating? A field experiment on honesty with children," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 73-78, February.
  19. Ockenfels, Axel & Selten, Reinhard, 2000. "An Experiment on the Hypothesis of Involuntary Truth-Signalling in Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 90-116, October.
  20. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Do all material incentives for pro-social activities backfire? The response to cash and non-cash incentives for blood donations," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 738-748, August.
  21. 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.
  22. Nina Mazar & Dan Ariely, 2006. "Dishonesty in everyday life and its policy implications," Working Papers 06-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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