Requiem for a Nudge: Framing Effects in Nudging Honesty

32 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2019 Last revised: 10 Feb 2020

See all articles by Eugen Dimant

Eugen Dimant

University of Pennsylvania, Behavioral Ethics Lab

Gerben A. van Kleef

University of Amsterdam - Department of Psychology

Shaul Shalvi

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE)

Date Written: February 8, 2020

Abstract

We examine framing effects in nudging honesty, in the spirit of the growing norm-nudge literature, by utilizing a high-powered and pre-registered study. Across four treatments, participants received one random truthful norm-nudge that emphasized `moral suasion’ based on either what other participants previously did (empirical message) or approved of doing (normative message) and varied in the framing (positive or negative) in which it was presented. Subsequently, participants repeatedly played the `mind game' in which they were first asked to think of a number, then rolled a digital die, and then reported whether the two numbers coincide, in which case a bonus was paid. Hence, whether or not the report was truthful remained unobservable to the experimenters. We find compelling null effects with tight confidence intervals showing that none of the norm-nudge interventions worked. A follow-up experiment reveals the reason for these convincing null-effects: the information norm-nudges did not actually change norms. Notably, our secondary results suggest that a substantial portion of individuals misremembered norm-nudges such that they conveniently supported deviant behavior. This subset of participants indeed displayed significantly higher deviance levels, a behavior pattern in line with literature on motivated misremembering and belief distortion. We discuss the importance of this high-powered null finding for the flourishing norm-nudge literature and derive policy implications.

Keywords: Norm-Nudges, Nudge, Social Information, Social Norms

JEL Classification: B41, D01, D9

Suggested Citation

Dimant, Eugen and van Kleef, Gerben A. and Shalvi, Shaul, Requiem for a Nudge: Framing Effects in Nudging Honesty (February 8, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3416399 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3416399

Eugen Dimant (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania, Behavioral Ethics Lab ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/eugendimant/

Gerben A. Van Kleef

University of Amsterdam - Department of Psychology ( email )

Roetersstraat 15
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands
+31 20 525 6633 (Phone)
+31 20 639 0531 (Fax)

Shaul Shalvi

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, North Holland 1018 WB
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/morallabshalvi/

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