London: People are less likely to tell lies at home but are more ready to bend the truth in office, a new study has claimed. Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Bonn suggested that it pains us to tell lies, particularly when we are in our own homes.
The study found that people are basically honest as honesty is hugely important to our sense of who we are. The researchers conducted simple honesty tests by ringing people in their own homes in Germany and asking them to flip a coin.
The study participants were asked over the phone to report on how it landed. The catch to this test was that each of the individuals taking part was given a strong financial incentive to lie without the fear of being found out. The study participants were told that if the coin landed tails up, they would receive 15 euros or a gift voucher; while if the coin landed heads up, they would receive nothing.
Using randomly generated home phone numbers, 658 people were contacted who agreed to take part. Although the researchers could not directly observe the behaviour of the individuals in their own homes, the aggregated reports show a
remarkably high level of honesty.
Over half of the study participants (55.6 per cent) reported that the coin landed heads-up, which meant they would receive nothing. Only 44.4 per cent reported tails up, collecting their financial reward as a result.
A second similar test was done involving 94 participants over the phone. This time they were asked to report on the results of four consecutive coin tosses with the promise of five euros for every time the coin landed tails up. Despite a potential maximum pay-off of 20 euros, the reports they received from the respondents reflected the likely distribution of a fair coin. This is based on the premise that the coin would have landed tails up around 50 per cent of the time.
All those taking part in the experiments answered questions about their gender, age, views on dishonesty and their religious background. The study suggested, however, that personal attributes play no part here as the overall level of
honesty demonstrated in both experiments was high.
"The fact that the financial incentive to lie was outweighed by the perceived cost of lying shows just how honest most people are when they are in their own homes," Dr Johannes Abeler, from the Department of Economics at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.
"One theory is that being honest is at the very core of how we want to perceive ourselves and is very important to our sense of self identity. Why it is so important? It may be to do with the social norms we have been given about what is right and wrong from the moment we could walk and talk," Abeler said.