YES! - Thema 2019

Understanding why and how much people lie

Da der Autor aus Südafrika stammt und die Betreuung nur auf Englisch durchführen kann, ist keine deutschsprachige Variante dieses Themas verfügbar.

Why do people lie so much? Why do people lie so little? Depending on the perspective you take, either of these questions could make sense. For example, many economic models assume that people will always take the action that is in their own best interest. However, in many situations, one can promote one’s own short-term interests by lying. Therefore, starting from the perspective of these simple economic models, the puzzle is trying to understand why people don’t lie more? Recently, economists have become increasingly interested in understanding why and when people are willing to tell lies.  For example, they have studied whether people are more willing to tell lies when they will be paid a higher monetary amount for doing so. They have studied whether people who are completely unwilling to tell a lie that harms someone else, are willing to tell a “white” lie, which benefits someone else. More recently, there have been efforts to understand the reasons why people might choose not to lie, with prominent theories referring to: (i) the reputational concerns when one lies, (ii) an intrinsic cost of lying.

To work on a project in this area one would need to read some of the work that has been done to obtain a general understanding of the current level of understanding regarding why and when people lie. A good research project would then involve coming up with an original, narrow question that can be answered by collecting data – perhaps by designing a simple experiment. An alternative would be to replicate an existing experiment in a different context, or with a small change to understand something new.

Some possible sources of inspiration:

Abeler, J., Nosenzo, D., & Raymond, C. (2016). Preferences for truth-telling.

(also see the very nice associate with this paper website – see links above)

Erat, S., & Gneezy, U. (2012). White liesManagement Science58(4), 723-733.

Fischbacher, U., & Föllmi-Heusi, F. (2013). Lies in disguise—an experimental study on cheating. Journal of the European Economic Association11(3), 525-547.

Gneezy, U. (2005). Deception: The role of consequencesAmerican Economic Review95(1), 384-394.

Gneezy, U., Kajackaite, A., & Sobel, J. (2018). Lying Aversion and the Size of the LieAmerican Economic Review108(2), 419-53.

Jiang, T. (2013). Cheating in mind games: The subtlety of rules matters. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization93, 328-336.

Shalvi, S., Dana, J., Handgraaf, M. J., & De Dreu, C. K. (2011). Justified ethicality: Observing desired counterfactuals modifies ethical perceptions and behaviorOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes115(2), 181-190.

Mit Unterstützung von


Wissenschaftlicher Partner:

Betreuer der YES!-Teams und Autor des Themenvorschlags:

Kai Barron

Kai Barron ist Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am WZB Berlin und arbeitet dort in der Forschungsgruppe “Economics of Change”. Sein Forschungsschwerpunkte sind die Verhaltens-, Versuchs- und Entwicklungsökonomie, insbesondere dabei mit Fokus auf Entstehung von Überzeugungen und dem Studium von moralischem Verhalten. Er studierte an der University of Cape Town, bevor er zum University College of London wechselte, wo er seinen Masters und seine Promotion erlangte.

YES!-Themen von Kai Barron