Would I lie to you?

Do I lie to you? According to a recent paper from Raúl López-Pérez and Eli Spiegelman I do. These authors carried out experiments to find out what personality traits and other variables may explain why some people are more keen to lie than others. Results are surprising. For instance, gender* and religiosity have no predictive value against what other previous studies said. The most significant variable is the major of study. Apparently, those who studied Economics or Business (E&B) tend to lie significantly more than other people.

Another covariate that correlates very well with ones honesty is the expectation of others honesty:
expectations are highly predictive of behavior: an increase in reported expectations of other people’s dishonesty decreases the probability of an honest choice, roughly one-for-one
However, even if we take into account expectations, E&B keeps increasing dishonesty:
This is true even after controlling for subjects’ beliefs about the overall rate of deception, which predict behavior very well: Although B&E subjects expect most others to lie in our decision problem, the effect of major remains.
In other words, according to previous studies we know that people lie as much as he or she thinks others lie, but if your major is E&B then you add a bit more of lies than expected.

This is already embarrassing, but there is more. You could argue that there is an endogenous problem there, because maybe those that are more prone to lie are exactly those who end up studying E&B. Unfortunately, not. López-Pérez and Spiegelman used an Instrumental Variable (political position) to get rid of this effect. Results show that, indeed, E&B major has a significant effect increasing the amount of lies.

[FYI, an Instrumental Variable is a method applied in attempting to estimate the causal effect of some variable x on another y. An instrument is a third variable z which affects y only through its effect on x.]

Finally, it may be worth noting that Raúl López-Pérez and Eli Spiegelman and myself are economists.

* there is a tricky aspect about gender. Lopez-Perez and Spiegelman found that gender is not significant once majors are considered. However, E&B are usually more liked by men than women.


Anonymous said…
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