December 2021

IZA DP No. 14931: The Way People Lie in Markets: Detectable vs. Deniable Lies

Chloe Tergiman, Marie Claire Villeval

revised version published in: Management Science, 2023, 69 (6), 3157-3758

In a finitely repeated game with asymmetric information, we experimentally study how individuals adapt the nature of their lies when settings allow for reputation-building. While some lies can be detected ex post by the uninformed party, others remain deniable. We find that traditional market mechanisms such as reputation generate strong changes in the way people lie and lead to strategies in which individuals can maintain plausible deniability: people simply hide their lies better by substituting deniable lies for detectable lies. Our results highlight the limitations of reputation to root out fraud when a Deniable Lie strategy is available.