Honesty in the Digital Age

38 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2018

See all articles by Michel André Maréchal

Michel André Maréchal

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Alain Cohn

University of Michigan

Tobias Gesche

Harvard University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2, 2018


Modern communication technologies enable efficient 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 866 subjects to examine how human versus machine interaction influences cheating for financial gain. We find that individuals cheat significantly 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 favorable 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 interaction is key to mitigating dishonest behavior and that self-selection into communication channels can be used to screen for dishonest people.

Keywords: cheating, honesty, private information, communication, digitization, lying costs

JEL Classification: C990, D820, D830

Suggested Citation

Maréchal, Michel André and Cohn, Alain and Gesche, Tobias, Honesty in the Digital Age (May 2, 2018). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6996, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3198158 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3198158

Michel André Maréchal (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006

Alain Cohn

University of Michigan ( email )

105 S State St
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Tobias Gesche

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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