Imagine someone gave you $89. The only instruction was to split it with someone you didn’t know, and who had no idea how much money was involved. How much of it would you give away?
That was the basis for a test conducted by business professors at Rutgers, Lehigh and DePaul universities to establish how people lie in writing.
48 students were given the money, and results showed that 92% of them lied when using e-mail to split the cash, but only 64% when writing by hand.
However, most students lied about the amount involved.
On average, the students using e-mail handed over $29, while those using ink gave $34 away.
It was followed by a second test where the students were asked to split the money with someone they knew. The lying continued, but to a smaller degree. The results were collated in a paper called Being Honest Online, published at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in California.
Co-author Liuba Belkin, an assistant professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, said:
"There is a growing concern in the workplace over email communications, and it comes down to trust. You’re not afforded the luxury of seeing non-verbal and behavioral cues over email, and in an organizational context that leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation and – as we saw in our study – intentional deception."
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