This study explores whether an oath to honesty can reduce both shirking and lying among crowd-sourced internet workers. Using a classic coin-flip experiment, we first confirm that a substantial majority of Mechanical Turk workers both shirk and lie when reporting the number of heads flipped. We then demonstrate that lying can be reduced by first asking each worker to swear voluntarily on his or her honor to tell the truth in subsequent economic decisions. Even in this online, purely anonymous environment, the oath significantly reduced the percent of subjects telling “big” lies (by roughly 27%), but did not affect shirking. We also explore whether a truth-telling oath can be used as a screening device if implemented after decisions have been made. Conditional on flipping response, MTurk shirkers and workers who lied were significantly less likely to agree to an ex-post honesty oath. Our results suggest oaths may help elicit more truthful behavior, even in online crowd-sourced environments.
Jacquemet, N., James, A. G., Luchini, S., Murphy, J. J., & Shogren, J. F. (2021). Do truth-telling oaths improve honesty in crowd-working?. PloS one, 16(1), e0244958. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244958
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This article was originally published in PLoS ONE, volume 16, issue 1, in 2021. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244958