The Effect of Pledges on the Distribution of Lying Behavior: An Online Experiment

28 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2019 Last revised: 25 Oct 2019

See all articles by Franziska Heinicke

Franziska Heinicke

Utrecht University - School of Economics; University of Mannheim - Department of Economics

Stephanie Rosenkranz

Utrecht University - School of Economics

Utz Weitzel

VU University Amsterdam

Date Written: April 30, 2019

Abstract

Reminding people to behave honestly or asking them to actively commit to honest behavior is an easily implementable intervention to reduce dishonesty. Earlier research has shown that such truth pledges affect lying behavior on a group level. In this study we are analyzing how a truth pledge changes the distribution of lying types which have been established in the literature, i.e. truth tellers, partial liars and extreme liars, to better understand whether truth pledges can affect the decision to lie or merely the extent of lies. For this purpose, we conduct a 2x2 experiment with 484 participants in which we apply a truth pledge in a gain and a loss frame. We introduce a novel "Even-Odd task'' for online lying experiments, which is based on the well-established coin-toss design. The Even-Odd task takes into account that unbiased, physical randomization devices are not always available in online settings, which can be a problem for truth-tellers if they are bad mental randomizers. We therefore ask participants to think of privately known numbers (house numbers, phone numbers) and then determine randomly whether even or uneven numbers result in the higher payment. We find that the truth pledge significantly reduces lying but also that this effect is strongest for extreme liars. The uneven shift in the distribution of liars suggests that truth pledges are effective in decreasing the size of lies but not the number of lies told. This result is robust for both frames.

Keywords: lying, truth pledge, extreme liars, loss aversion, online experiment

JEL Classification: D03, D63, C90

Suggested Citation

Heinicke, Franziska and Heinicke, Franziska and Rosenkranz, Stephanie and Weitzel, Utz, The Effect of Pledges on the Distribution of Lying Behavior: An Online Experiment (April 30, 2019). Journal of Economic Psychology, Vol. 73, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3396454 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3396454

Franziska Heinicke

Utrecht University - School of Economics ( email )

Kriekenpitplein 21-22
Adam Smith Building
Utrecht, +31 30 253 7373 3584 EC
Netherlands

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics ( email )

D-68131 Mannheim
Germany

Stephanie Rosenkranz

Utrecht University - School of Economics ( email )

Kriekenpitplein 21-22
Adam Smith Building
Utrecht, 3584 EC
Netherlands
+31 30 253 9806 (Phone)
+31 30 253 7373 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uu.nl/uupublish/defaculteit/persoonlijkepagi/rosenkranz/

Utz Weitzel (Contact Author)

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam
Netherlands

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