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Truth-Telling: A Representative Assessment


  • Abeler, Johannes

    () (University of Oxford)

  • Becker, Anke

    () (University of Bonn)

  • Falk, Armin

    () (briq, University of Bonn)


A central assumption of the canonical cheap talk literature is that people misreport their private information if this is to their material benefit. Recent evidence from laboratory experiments with student subjects suggests, however, that while many people do report the payoff-maximizing outcome, some report their private information truthfully or at least do not lie maximally. We measure truth-telling outside the laboratory by calling a representative sample of the German population at home. In our setup, participants have a strong monetary incentive to misreport, misreporting cannot be detected, and reputational concerns are negligible. Yet, we find that aggregate reporting behavior closely follows the expected truthful distribution. Our results underline the importance of lying costs and raise questions regarding the influence of the decision-making environment and the elicitation mode on reporting behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Abeler, Johannes & Becker, Anke & Falk, Armin, 2012. "Truth-Telling: A Representative Assessment," IZA Discussion Papers 6919, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6919

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gill, David & Prowse, Victoria & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2013. "Cheating in the workplace: An experimental study of the impact of bonuses and productivity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 120-134.
    2. Valeria Maggian & Marie Claire Villeval, 2016. "Social preferences and lying aversion in children," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(3), pages 663-685, September.
    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. Alain Cohn & Michel André Maréchal & Thomas Noll, 2015. "Bad Boys: How Criminal Identity Salience Affects Rule Violation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(4), pages 1289-1308.
    5. Robert Dur & Robin Zoutenbier, 2015. "Intrinsic Motivations of Public Sector Employees: Evidence for Germany," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 16(3), pages 343-366, August.
    6. Ertac, Seda & Koçkesen, Levent & Ozdemir, Duygu, 2016. "The role of verifiability and privacy in the strategic provision of performance feedback: Theory and experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 24-45.
    7. Alessandro Bucciol & Luca Zarri, 2013. "Lying in Politics: Evidence from the US," Working Papers 22/2013, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    8. Ariely, Dan & Garcia-Rada, Ximena & Hornuf, Lars & Mann, Heather, 2014. "The (True) Legacy of Two Really Existing Economic Systems," Discussion Papers in Economics 20974, University of Munich, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    private information; cheap talk; honesty; lying costs; representative experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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