Pants on fire: When consumers lie to service providers

Mar 15, 2012

Is honesty the best policy? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers who lie during a service encounter are more satisfied than truth tellers when they get what they want.

"Although we might expect that a positive outcome would be 'tainted' for as they would feel guilty about their actions, liars are significantly more satisfied than truth tellers," write authors Christina I. Anthony and Elizabeth Cowley (both The University of Sydney).

The authors conducted a series of lab experiments where participants either told the truth or lied during conversations with service providers in order to pursue a material reward. For example, in one experiment, participants responded to a number of questions that resulted in their ineligibility for a prize. The participants knew that they were ineligible, but had a chance to lie to the study administrator in order to acquire the prize. The results showed that liars reported more extreme evaluations of the outcomes than truth tellers. "Liars were more satisfied than truth tellers following a favorable outcome, and more dissatisfied than truth tellers following an unfavorable outcome," the authors explain. The authors found similar results when participants negotiated with a and a positive outcome was only achievable by lying, and when they requested a refund for a product that fell outside the terms of the refund policy.

Why do liars have such extreme reactions? The authors say it's because lying is hard work. "Because liars are busy lying, they have fewer available for other tasks. One such important task involves using feedback from the listener to update one's expectations about how the conversation is progressing," the authors write. "Consequently, liars are more surprised by the final outcome than truth tellers, which, in turn, results in a stronger reaction to it."

The authors tested this process by inducing participants with positive or negative expectations about the outcome and provided feedback during the that was inconsistent with their expectations. "Whereas truth tellers were able to correct their initial expectations based on the incoming feedback, liars were not able to update their expectations, and were therefore less prepared for the outcome," the authors write.

Explore further: Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

More information: Christina I. Anthony and Elizabeth Cowley. "The Labor of Lies: How Lying for Material Rewards Polarizes Consumers' Outcome Satisfaction." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2012.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Trusting people make better lie detectors

Aug 13, 2010

Trusting others may not make you a fool or a Pollyanna, according to a study in the current Social Psychological and Personality Science. Instead it can be a sign that you're smart.

Lovelorn liars leave linguistic leads

Feb 13, 2012

Online daters intent on fudging their personal information have a big advantage: most people are terrible at identifying a liar. But new research is turning the tables on deceivers using their own words.

UB team's software is set to eyeball liars

Mar 08, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study team at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, is working on video analysis software to analyze eye movements to spot liars. So far, they say their results show that ...

Recommended for you

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

1 hour ago

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

Healthy working environment is a salvation

3 hours ago

Contract workers in Norway often face the worst and most unpredictable working conditions. But good management and support from colleagues makes these workers more robust.

Why marvellous isn't awesome any more

3 hours ago

Using the Spoken British National Corpus 2014, a very large collection of recordings of real-life, informal, spoken interactions between speakers of British English from across the United Kingdom, Cambridge ...

User comments : 0