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Lying: An Experimental Investigation of the Role of Situational Factors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 July 2015


Individuals often lie for psychological rewards (e.g., preserving self image and/or protecting others), absent economic rewards. We conducted a laboratory experiment, using a modified dictator game, to identify conditions that entice individuals to lie solely for psychological rewards. We argue that such lies can provide a ready means for individuals to manage others’ impression of them. We investigated the effect of social distance (the perceived familiarity, intimacy, or psychological proximity between two parties) and knowledge of circumstances (whether parties have common or asymmetric information) on the frequency of lying. We found that lying occurs more frequently when social distance is near and that the effect is exacerbated when information is asymmetric. Our theoretical development suggests that, under these conditions, individuals’ need to manage others’ impression is magnified. We discuss the implications of our findings.

Copyright © Society for Business Ethics 2011

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