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Honesty in the digital age

Author

Listed:
  • Michel André Maréchal
  • Alain Cohn
  • Tobias Gesche

Abstract

Modern communication technologies enable effcient exchange of information but often sacrifice direct human interaction inherent in more traditional forms of communication. This raises the question of whether the lack of personal interaction induces individuals to exploit informational asymmetries. We conducted two experiments with a total of 848 subjects to examine how human versus machine interaction influences cheating for financial gain. We find that individuals cheat about three times more when they interact with a machine rather than a person, regardless of whether the machine is equipped with human features. When interacting with a human, individuals are particularly reluctant to report unlikely and, therefore, suspicious outcomes, which is consistent with social image concerns. The second experiment shows that dishonest individuals prefer to interact with a machine when facing an opportunity to cheat. Our results suggest that human presence is key to mitigating dishonest behavior and that self-selection into communication channels can be used to screen for dishonest people.

Suggested Citation

  • Michel André Maréchal & Alain Cohn & Tobias Gesche, 2018. "Honesty in the digital age," ECON - Working Papers 280, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Dec 2020.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:280
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    Cited by:

    1. Jantsje M. Mol & Eline C. M. Heijden & Jan J. M. Potters, 2020. "(Not) alone in the world: Cheating in the presence of a virtual observer," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 23(4), pages 961-978, December.
    2. Zakaria Babutsidze & Nobuyuki Hanaki & Adam Zylbersztejn, 2019. "Digital Communication and Swift Trust," Post-Print halshs-02409314, HAL.
    3. Zakaria Babutsidze & Nobuyuki Hanaki & Adam Zylbersztejn, 2020. "Nonverbal content and swift trust: An experiment on digital communication," Working Papers halshs-02483343, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Honesty; cheating; human interaction; digitization; social image; screening;

    JEL classification:

    • C99 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Other
    • 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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