On Lies and Hard Truths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We run an experimental study using sender-receiver games to evaluate how senders' willingness to lie to others compares to their willingness to tell hard truths, i.e., promote an outcome that the sender knows is unfair to the receiver without explicitly lying. Unlike in previous work on lying when it has consequences, we do not find that antisocial behavior is less frequent when it involves lying than when it does not. In fact, we find the opposite result in the setting where there is social contact between senders and receivers, and receivers have enough information to judge whether they have been treated unfairly. In this setting, we find that senders prefer to hide behind a lie and implement the antisocial outcome by being dishonest rather than by telling the truth. These results are consistent with social image costs depending on the social proximity between senders and receivers, especially when receivers can judge the kindness of the senders' actions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number687913
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 7 2021


  • antisocial behavior
  • hard truth
  • lying
  • sender-receiver games
  • social image

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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