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It's Not A Lie If You Believe It. Lying and Belief Distortion Under Norm-Uncertainty

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  • Cristina Bicchieri
  • Eugen Dimant

    () (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

We explore the relationship between norm-uncertainty and lying. Lies are ubiquitous, and people often lie for their own benefit or for the benefit of others. Research in environments in which social norms are clearly defined and communicated finds that social norms in fluence personal decisions, even when they are not in our own self-interest. We deviate from this approach and study lying under norm uncertainty with scope for opportunistic interpretation of the norm. We introduce variation along three dimensions: salience of different types of norm-uncertainty (normative/empirical), the beneficiary of the lie (self/other), and ex-ante knowledge about the opportunity to tell a lie in order to tease out potential belief-distortion mechanisms. We also find compelling evidence that individuals engage in self-serving belief distortion to increase lying overall. However, we observe this only when uncertainty about what others do (empirical uncertainty), but not when uncertainty about what others approve of (normative uncertainty) is made salient. We also observe conditional liars, but only when the lie is self-serving rather than to the benefit of a third party. We discuss policy implications to improve the effectiveness of norm-based interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant, 2018. "It's Not A Lie If You Believe It. Lying and Belief Distortion Under Norm-Uncertainty," PPE Working Papers 0012, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:ppc:wpaper:0012
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    Cited by:

    1. Gary Bolton & Eugen Dimant & Ulrich Schmidt, 2018. "When a Nudge Backfires. Using Observation with Social and Economic Incentives to Promote Pro-Social Behavior," PPE Working Papers 0017, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    2. D'Adda, Giovanna & Dufwenberg, Martin & Passarelli, Francesco & Tabellini, Guido, 2019. "Partial Norms," CEPR Discussion Papers 13593, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
      • Giovanna d’Adda & Martin Dufwenberg & Francesco Passarelli & Guido Tabellini, 2019. "Partial Norms," Working Papers 643, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
      • Giovanna D'Adda & Martin Dufwenberg & Francesco Passarelli & Guido Tabellini, 2019. "Partial Norms," CESifo Working Paper Series 7568, CESifo.
    3. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant & Erte Xiao, 2017. "Deviant or Wrong? The Effects of Norm Information on the Efficacy of Punishment," Discussion Papers 2017-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    4. Garcia, Thomas & Massoni, Sébastien & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2020. "Ambiguity and excuse-driven behavior in charitable giving," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 124(C).
    5. Gneezy, Uri & Saccardo, Silvia & Serra-Garcia, Marta & van Veldhuizen, Roel, 2020. "Bribing the Self," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 311-324.
    6. Hu, Fangtingyu & Ben-Ner, Avner, 2020. "The effects of feedback on lying behavior: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 24-34.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cheating; Experiment; Lying; Social Norms; Uncertainty;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics

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