The Influence of Self and Social Image Concerns on Lying

31 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2020 Last revised: 8 Mar 2021

See all articles by Zvonimir Bašić

Zvonimir Bašić

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Simone Quercia

University of Bonn

Date Written: March 8, 2021


We investigate the influence of self and social image concerns as potential sources of lying costs. In a standard die-rolling experiment, we exogenously manipulate self-awareness and observability, which mediate the focus of a person on their private and public selves, respectively. First, we show that an increase in self-awareness has no effect on reporting private information. This suggests that self-image concerns may be less important than previously hypothesized in the literature on lying costs. Second, we show that increasing subjects' observability, while still maintaining private information, significantly decreases the subjects' reports. We finally show in a survey experiment that respondents believe that the likelihood of a lie increases with the reported outcome and attribute negative traits to people who make high reports. This further supports reputational concerns as the explanation behind the results of our social image treatment.

Keywords: honesty, truth-telling, lying, private information, self-image concerns, social image concerns, reputation

JEL Classification: C91, D63, D82, D91

Suggested Citation

Bašić, Zvonimir and Quercia, Simone, The Influence of Self and Social Image Concerns on Lying (March 8, 2021). MPI Collective Goods Discussion Paper, No. 2020/18, Available at SSRN: or

Zvonimir Bašić (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113


Simone Quercia

University of Bonn ( email )

Institute for Applied Microeconomics
Adenauerallee 24 - 42
Bonn, 53113

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