The Choice of Honesty: An Experiment Regarding Heterogeneous Responses to Situational Social Norms
Professor Dr Alexander Wagner (University of Zurich)
We conduct a laboratory experiment in which we expose participants to situational social norms of approval or disapproval of lying. Participants conform to the situational pressure, but there are important differences in individual reactions. We document that resistance to situational norms is predicted by proxies for agent-specific costs of lying. The extent and direction of the interaction of individual characteristics with situational norms and with economic incentives shed new light on why people act more truthfully than predicted by standard economic models. Collectively, the evidence from the experiment is convincingly accounted for by a model of self-signaling under situational pressure.