Deception Through Telling the Truth?! Experimental Evidence From Individuals and Teams*


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     I thank Vincent Crawford, Martin Dufwenberg, Uri Gneezy, Navin Kartik, Martin Kocher, Stephan Kroll, Topi Miettinen and Jörg Oechssler for very helpful comments. Leonardo Felli and three referees provided excellent advice on how to improve the article. Olga Mellizo was of great help in language editing. Financial support from the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF-Project No. P16617), the Max Planck Society, the Centre of Experimental Economics at the University of Innsbruck (sponsored by Raiffeisen Landesbank Tirol), the Tyrolean Science Foundation (TWF) and the German Science Foundation (through the Leibniz-Award to Axel Ockenfels) is gratefully acknowledged.


Informational asymmetries abound in economic decision making and often provide an incentive for deception through telling a lie or misrepresenting information. In this article I use a cheap-talk sender-receiver experiment to show that telling the truth should be classified as deception too if the sender chooses the true message with the expectation that the receiver will not follow the sender's (true) message. The experimental data reveal a large degree of ‘sophisticated’ deception through telling the truth. The robustness of my broader definition of deception is confirmed in an experimental treatment where teams make decisions.