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Honesty in the Digital Age
Last registered on July 23, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Honesty in the Digital Age
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003152
Initial registration date
July 13, 2018
Last updated
July 23, 2018 4:14 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Michigan
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
ETH Zurich
PI Affiliation
University of Zurich
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2013-10-01
End date
2014-11-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Modern communication technologies enable efficient 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 866 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 favorable 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 interaction is key to mitigating
dishonest behavior and that self-selection into communication channels can be used to screen for
dishonest people.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Cohn, Alain, Tobias Gesche and Michel Marechal. 2018. "Honesty in the Digital Age." AEA RCT Registry. July 23. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3152-1.0.
Former Citation
Cohn, Alain et al. 2018. "Honesty in the Digital Age." AEA RCT Registry. July 23. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3152/history/32075.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Subjects performed coin tosses and reported their outcomes via different communication channels.
Intervention Start Date
2013-10-01
Intervention End Date
2014-11-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
number of successful coin tosses
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We varied two factors using a two-by-two factorial design: (i) whether subjects reported their outcomes to a person or a machine, and (ii)
whether the interaction involved oral or written communication.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
computer
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
866
Sample size: planned number of observations
866
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
between 86 and 161
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS