Email Encourages Lying, Research Warns

Lying via email is easierAre you an honest person? For all of us who would answer yes, truthfulness appears to be a fixed personality trait that is unlikely to be shifted by the medium of communication. But recent research casts doubt on the idea that circumstance cannot sway behavior. For instance, scientists have demonstrated that communicating via email makes us more likely to bend the truth, according the the BPS research digest blog:
Emails feel so transient, so disembodied, that we're more tempted to lie when sending them compared with writing with pen and paper. That's according to Charles Naquin and colleagues who tested the honesty of students and managers as they played financial games.

48 graduate business students were presented with an imaginary $89 kitty and had to choose how much they'd tell their partner was in the kitty, and how much of the kitty to share with their partner. Crucially, some participants shared this information by email, others by pen and paper. You guessed it - those who shared the info by email were more likely to lie about the kitty size (92 percent of them did vs. 63 percent of the pen and paper group), and they were also more unfair in how they shared the money.

Naquin, a DePaul University management professor, and his team also noted that these results bolstered earlier evidence that online communication and less generous behavior go hand in hand, including previous research showing that peer performance reviews are more negative when conducted online rather than on paper. Pushing back against the recent rush to put all tasks online, the team warns that "moving paper tasks online either within or across organizational boundaries should be undertaken with caution."

(Pinocchio image by Juliana Coutinho, CC 2.0)