Intuitive Honesty Versus Dishonesty: Meta-Analytic Evidence


Is self-serving lying intuitive? Or does honesty come naturally? Many experiments have manipulated reliance on intuition in behavioral-dishonesty tasks, with mixed results. We present two meta-analyses (with evidential value) testing whether an intuitive mind-set affects the proportion of liars ( k = 73; n = 12,711) and the magnitude of lying ( k = 50; n = 6,473). The results indicate that when dishonesty harms abstract others, promoting intuition causes more people to lie, log odds ratio = 0.38, p = .0004, and people to lie more, Hedges’s g = 0.26, p textless .0001. However, when dishonesty inflicts harm on concrete others, promoting intuition has no significant effect on dishonesty ( p textgreater .63). We propose one potential explanation: The intuitive appeal of prosociality may cancel out the intuitive selfish appeal of dishonesty, suggesting that the social consequences of lying could be a promising key to the riddle of intuition’s role in honesty. We discuss limitations such as the relatively unbalanced distribution of studies using concrete versus abstract victims and the overall large interstudy heterogeneity.

Perspectives on Psychological Science