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Honesty in the digital age


Maréchal, Michel; Cohn, Alain; Gesche, Tobias (2020). Honesty in the digital age. Working paper series / Department of Economics 280, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Modern communication technologies enable effcient exchange of information but often sacrifice direct human interaction inherent in more traditional forms of communication. This raises the question of whether the lack of personal interaction induces individuals to exploit informational asymmetries. We conducted two experiments with a total of 848 subjects to examine how human versus machine interaction influences cheating for financial gain. We find that individuals cheat about three times more when they interact with a machine rather than a person, regardless of whether the machine is equipped with human features. When interacting with a human, individuals are particularly reluctant to report unlikely and, therefore, suspicious outcomes, which is consistent with social image concerns. The second experiment shows that dishonest individuals prefer to interact with a machine when facing an opportunity to cheat. Our results suggest that human presence is key to mitigating dishonest behavior and that self-selection into communication channels can be used to screen for dishonest people.

Abstract

Modern communication technologies enable effcient exchange of information but often sacrifice direct human interaction inherent in more traditional forms of communication. This raises the question of whether the lack of personal interaction induces individuals to exploit informational asymmetries. We conducted two experiments with a total of 848 subjects to examine how human versus machine interaction influences cheating for financial gain. We find that individuals cheat about three times more when they interact with a machine rather than a person, regardless of whether the machine is equipped with human features. When interacting with a human, individuals are particularly reluctant to report unlikely and, therefore, suspicious outcomes, which is consistent with social image concerns. The second experiment shows that dishonest individuals prefer to interact with a machine when facing an opportunity to cheat. Our results suggest that human presence is key to mitigating dishonest behavior and that self-selection into communication channels can be used to screen for dishonest people.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:C99, D82, D83
Uncontrolled Keywords:Honesty, cheating, human interaction, digitization, social image, screening, Ehrlichkeit, Asymmetrische Information, Betrug, Digitalisierung, Interaktion, Experiment
Language:English
Date:December 2020
Deposited On:27 Feb 2018 17:17
Last Modified:06 Jan 2021 15:50
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:35
ISSN:1664-7041
Additional Information:Revised version. Auch publiziert als CESifo Working Paper No. 6996
OA Status:Green
Official URL:https://www.econ.uzh.ch/en/research/workingpapers.html?paper-id=959
Related URLs:https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3198158

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