Don’t Believe Everything You Read

29 Sep
September 29, 2008

“People seem to feel more justified in acting in self-serving ways when typing as opposed to writing.”

People are 50% more likely to lie in email than when using pen and paper, according to a new report just released entitled, “Being Honest Online: The Finer Points of Lying in Online Ultimatum Bargaining” by reported by Liubia Belkin (Lehigh), Terri Kurtzberg (Rutgers) and Charles Naquin (DePaul) at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

The study asked 48 full-time MBA students to divide $89 between themselves and another unknown party, who only knew that somewhere between $5 and $100 had been given to distribute.  It was an Ultimatum Game where the receiving party had to accept whatever amount to them.  The MBA students reported the amount that they were giving to the other person and ‘how much they had to distribute.’

Students reporting using email lied more than 92 percent of the time, while those using pen-and-paper lied slightly less than 64 percent.  Not only did pen and paper users distribute more to the other party, but they felt less justified in lying.  The authors surmised that people may lie more via email because they falsely perceive the written documents to be more ‘legal” and permanent.  In a follow-up study, they learned that this justification with lying by email was determined before they chose how much to share with the other person.  (Social Capital Blog)

"When people are typing, they seem to carry around different norms in their head," said researcher Professor Terri Kurtzberg.

"I think this means that businesses and schools cannot just assume email is the same as everything else. If we leave it as a free-for-all, it definitely brings out a more negative part of communication," Kurtzberg said today.  (Lehigh Valley Live)

"People seem to feel more justified in acting in self-serving ways when typing as opposed to writing," Kurtzberg told CNN.

The authors note that other recent studies have found email to be associated with lower interpersonal trust, more negative attitudes, and, a greater penchant for “flaming”—sending messages that are offensive, embarrassing, or rude.

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