Lying in a Foreign Language?

82 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2017 Last revised: 21 Oct 2020

See all articles by Despoina Alempaki

Despoina Alempaki

University of Warwick

Gönül Doğan

University of Cologne

Yang Yang

Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) - Lingnan (University) College

Date Written: October 20, 2020


We experimentally investigate whether using a foreign language affects social and personal norms on dishonesty, and whether language dependent norms explain lying behaviour. Participants can inflate their relative performance in a real effort task, and thereby increase their own payoff at a cost to another. As our main treatment manipulation, we vary the language of the experiment, that is conducted either in one’s native or a foreign language. We find that dishonesty is generally perceived as more socially inappropriate in one’s native language. However, we do not find a systematic foreign language effect on lying behaviour.

Note: The paper was previously circulated as "When in Rome: Lying in a Foreign Language" (01/04/2017)

Keywords: lying, norm compliance, personal norms, social norms, laboratory experiment

JEL Classification: D03, D63, C90, C92

Suggested Citation

Alempaki, Despoina and Doğan, Gönül and Yang, Yang, Lying in a Foreign Language? (October 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Despoina Alempaki (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Scarman Road
Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Gönül Doğan

University of Cologne ( email )

Cologne, 50923

Yang Yang

Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) - Lingnan (University) College ( email )


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