The Good, the Bad, and the Angry: An Experimental Study on the Heterogeneity of People's (Dis)honest Behavior

26 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2018 Last revised: 15 Feb 2018

Helene Barcelo

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)

Valerio Capraro

Middlesex University

Date Written: January 19, 2018

Abstract

Dishonesty has a negative impact on government, companies, and our personal lives. Previous experiments explored which conditions favor or disfavor the emergence of dishonesty. However, these studies are static: subjects are either fully aware of the consequences of all available actions, or they are uncertain, but the uncertainty cannot be cleared. On the contrary, many real interactions are dynamic: people know that they will have a chance to lie, but they do not initially know the exact consequences of the available actions. And they have to invest resources (e.g., time) to find them out. Here we capture the essence of this type of interactions by means of a novel decision problem in the context of relatively small lies (maximum payoff = 90 cents). We study the distribution of choices, the effect of response time and time pressure. We report numerous findings, the most intriguing of which is that, in our decision context, people can be divided in three types: Good people, who act honestly independently of the exact payoff associated with telling the truth; Angry people, who first look at the exact payoff corresponding to telling the truth and then lie only if this payoff is low; Bad people, who maximize their payoff without even checking the exact payoff corresponding to telling the truth. The first two classes are large, whereas only few people (less than 16%) appear to belong to the third class.

Keywords: honesty, deception, lying, response time, time pressure

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

Suggested Citation

Barcelo, Helene and Capraro, Valerio, The Good, the Bad, and the Angry: An Experimental Study on the Heterogeneity of People's (Dis)honest Behavior (January 19, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3094305 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3094305

Helene Barcelo

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) ( email )

17 Gauss Way
Berkley, CA CH 94720
United States

Valerio Capraro (Contact Author)

Middlesex University ( email )

The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT
United Kingdom

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