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Disentangling Deception: An Empirical Investigation of the Nature of Lying and Cheating

An individual lies if they misreport honestly generated information. They cheat if they create fraudulent information. The field of behavioral ethics has sought to investigate both types of deception by deploying experiments that rely on incentivized self-report procedures. In this article, I demonstrate that these procedures are incapable of studying cheating behavior. This limitation, combined with the motivation to theorize about the nature of cheating, has caused the theoretical and empirical literatures to make competing predictions about the nature of deception. In this article, I introduce a new class of deception paradigms capable of identifying both cheating and lying behavior. Across four experiments, I demonstrate that cheating and lying are fundamentally different activities, each with their own set of environmental antecedents and behavioral consequences. By distinguishing between these types of deceptions, I reconcile several conflicting predictions presently asserted in the behavioral ethics literature.

Samuel Skowronek
Wharton, University of Pennsylvania
United States


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