Lisa Spantig (RWTH Aachen University) – Individual Preferences for Truth-Telling

In many markets, informational asymmetries allow for misreporting of facts unobserved by others. In contrast to the traditional economists’ assumption that individuals are willing to misreport private information if this maximizes their material payoff, recent work has documented robust preferences for truth-telling among many decision-makers. Aggregate analyses of incentivized experimental reporting paradigms indicate that such preferences for truth-telling stem from a combination of an intrinsic motivation to be honest and a desire to be seen as honest. As the relative importance of these motivations is largely unknown at the individual level, we propose a novel incentivized measure to independently capture both underlying motives for preferences for truth-telling. We validate the measures’ properties experimentally and show that the measure meaningfully predicts behavior in other commonly studied situations that allow for dishonesty. Classifying individual preference types, we document systematic heterogeneity in preference for truth-telling (in a general population and a student sample).  Finally, we design and validate a 2-minute survey module that allows researchers to meaningfully proxy preferences for being and being seen as honest at the individual level.


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