Groups are more likely to lie than individuals, new study shows

Researchers cited the bankruptcies of WorldCom and Enron, as well as the recent emissions scandal at Volkswagen, as evidence of group-facilitated dishonesty.
By Brooks Hays  |  Sept. 6, 2017 at 2:39 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter
| License Photo

Sept. 6 (UPI) -- A new study has offered insights into the nature of dishonesty among groups. Researchers found groups of people were more likely to lie than individuals were.

During the study, scientists at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich recruited paid participants to watch videos of dice rolls and record the number on the face of the rolled die. Participants received a larger monetary reward for larger numbers.

Participants performed both as individuals and in groups. In some groups, researchers stipulated that all members had to record the same die roll to receive their reward. In other groups, rewards were contingent on group consistency. Members of each group were able to communicate in a computer chatroom.

"We observed that groups lie significantly more than individuals when group members face mutual financial gain and have to coordinate an action in order to realize that financial gain," LMU researcher Martin G. Kocher said in a news release.

When researchers analyzed the chatroom messages, they found 43.4 percent of the messages included arguments for dishonest reporting.

Most surprisingly, researchers found the number of group members who had acted dishonestly during the individual portion of the study had no bearing on whether or not a group lied.

"The ability for group members to exchange and discuss potential justifications for their dishonest behavior can create an overall shift in the group's beliefs of what constitutes moral behavior," said researcher Lisa Spantig.

"This allows them to establish a new norm regarding what does or does not constitute dishonest behavior," added researcher Simeon Schudy.

The findings -- detailed this week in the journal Management Science -- offer new insights into how organizational corruption can encourage dishonesty among dozens of group members or employees.

Researchers cited the bankruptcies of WorldCom and Enron, as well as the recent emissions scandal at Volkswagen, as evidence of group-facilitated dishonesty.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories