Preferences for Truth-Telling

120 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2016

See all articles by Johannes Abeler

Johannes Abeler

University of Oxford

Daniele Nosenzo

University of Nottingham

Collin Raymond

Amherst College

Date Written: September 27, 2016


Private information is at the heart of many economic activities. For decades, economists have assumed that individuals are willing to misreport private information if this maximizes their material payoff. We combine data from 72 experimental studies in economics, psychology and sociology, and show that, in fact, people lie surprisingly little. We then formalize a wide range of potential explanations for the observed behavior, identify testable predictions that can distinguish between the models and conduct new experiments to do so. None of the most popular explanations suggested in the literature can explain the data. We show that only combining a preference for being honest with a preference for being seen as honest can organize the empirical evidence.

Keywords: private information, honesty, truth-telling, lying, meta study

JEL Classification: D03, D82, H26, I13, J31

Suggested Citation

Abeler, Johannes and Nosenzo, Daniele and Raymond, Collin, Preferences for Truth-Telling (September 27, 2016). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6087, Available at SSRN: or

Johannes Abeler (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom
+44 1865 281440 (Phone)

Daniele Nosenzo

University of Nottingham ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

Collin Raymond

Amherst College ( email )

P.O. Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000
United States

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