People lie for a reason: Three experiments documenting the principle of veracity

Academic Article


  • The principle of veracity specifies a moral asymmetry between honesty and deceit. Deception requires justification, whereas honesty does not. Three experiments provide evidence consistent with the principle of veracity. In Study 1, participants (N = 66) selected honest or deceptive messages in response to situations in which motive was varied. Study 2 (N = 66) replicated the first with written, open-ended responses coded for deceptive content. Participants in Study 3 (N = 126) were given an opportunity to cheat for monetary gain and were subsequently interrogated about cheating. As predicted, when honesty was sufficient to meet situational demands, honest messages were selected, generated, and observed 98.5% to 100% of the time. Alternatively, deception was observed 60.0% to 64.3% of the time when variations in the same situations made the truth problematic. It is concluded that people usually deceive for a reason, that motives producing deception are usually the same that guide honesty, and that people usually do not lie when goals are attainable through honest means. © 2010 Eastern Communication Association.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Levine TR; Kim RK; Hamel LM
  • Start Page

  • 271
  • End Page

  • 285
  • Volume

  • 27
  • Issue

  • 4