Reflecting Yourself? The Influence of Mirrors and Avatars on Dishonest Behavior in Virtual Reality

90 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020

See all articles by Cedric-Pascal Sommer

Cedric-Pascal Sommer

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Date Written: May 8, 2019


Objective self-awareness theory (Duval & Wicklund, 1972) predicts that individuals behave morally compliant and honest under increased self-awareness. We argue that this proposition requires a critical reflection in the context of Virtual Reality (VR). The present thesis investigates self-awareness and dishonesty in VR and is among the first to provide such an exploratory reflection. In an experiment, we tested the effects of the two factors (1) mirror presence and (2) avatar choice on dishonesty in a highly-immersive VR setting. Participants played a mind game in VR that incentivized dishonest reporting without any fear of detection. We let participants choose between two human and one fictitious avatar. We also varied the presence of a mirror across participants. Our results show that participants took significantly more time to lie when facing a mirror or wearing a human avatar, indicating a higher state of self-awareness. However, this effect did not significantly influence the resulting level of dishonesty. We discuss a number of factors that could explain this finding and highlight the relevance of further research in the economics domain.

Keywords: Self-awareness, moral behavior, dishonesty, decision making, self-image, virtual reality

JEL Classification: A13, A14, M1, M10, M14, M15, M19, M5, M50, M53, M54, O32, O33, Y4, Y40

Suggested Citation

Sommer, Cedric-Pascal, Reflecting Yourself? The Influence of Mirrors and Avatars on Dishonest Behavior in Virtual Reality (May 8, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Cedric-Pascal Sommer (Contact Author)

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )


Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics