Does the Truth Come Naturally? Time Pressure Increases Honesty in one-shot Deception Games

19 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2016 Last revised: 10 Jun 2017

Date Written: June 9, 2017


Many situations require people to act quickly and are characterized by asymmetric information. Since asymmetric information makes people tempted to misreport their private information for their own benefit, it is of primary importance to understand whether time pressure affects honest behavior. A theory of social heuristics (the Social Heuristics Hypothesis, SHH), predicts that, in case of one-shot interactions, such an effect exists and it is positive. The SHH proposes that when people have no time to evaluate all available alternatives, they tend to rely on heuristics, choices that are optimal in everyday, repeated interactions and that have been internalized over time; and then, after deliberation, people shift their behavior towards the one that is optimal in the given interaction. Thus, the SHH predicts that time pressure increases honesty in one-shot interactions (because honesty may be optimal in repeated interactions, while dishonesty is always optimal in the short run). However, to the best of our knowledge, no experimental studies have tested this prediction. Here, I report a large (N=1,013) study aimed at filling this gap. In this study, participants were given a private information and were asked to report it within 5 seconds vs after 30 seconds. The interaction was one-shot, and payoffs were such that subjects had an incentive to lie. As predicted by the SHH, I find that time pressure increases honest behavior. In doing so, these results provide new insights on the role of time pressure on honesty, and provide one more piece of evidence in support of the Social Heuristics Hypothesis.

Keywords: lying aversion, honesty, time pressure, cognitive reflection, deception game

JEL Classification: C70, C79, C90, C91, C92, D64, D70, D71, H41

Suggested Citation

Capraro, Valerio, Does the Truth Come Naturally? Time Pressure Increases Honesty in one-shot Deception Games (June 9, 2017). Economics Letters, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Valerio Capraro (Contact Author)

Middlesex University ( email )

The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT
United Kingdom

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