So when it comes to financial gain, apparently half of us cannot be trusted.
A new study out of the University of Regina, published in the journal Economics Letters, set up a social experiment in which telling a fib would get the participant more money – and half of the 400 students who participated were willing to fudge the truth for some cash in their pocket.
As the Pacific Standard observes in an article, this isn't out of whack with other studies on lying.
However, economist Jason Childs found that men and women were nearly equal when it came to deception for their own benefit.
Childs used as his subjects 400 members of the Saskatchewan university's first-year economics class. In the experiment, they were put into pairs.
The "senders" were told that the pair would get two payments with different amounts of money – say, $5 and $7. The "senders" would get one payment – their partners the other.
But since the "receivers" had to be told which payment was more lucrative – and then be left to choose which one they wanted, the senders had a choice – tell the truth or misdirect to the lesser amount. Half did.
According to Childs, among his sample size, gender, grade point average, or student debt wasn't a factor in who lied. People were just as likely to lie over a $2 difference as they were over a $10 difference. But the liars were more likely to be business majors – perhaps, Child suggests, these people pursuing this degree were more "strongly motivated for financial returns."
As well children of divorce were more likely to fail the truth-telling test.
And students who were more likely to say religion was important to them, also, were slightly more likely to break one of the Ten Commandments – for the sake, it seems of a few dollars.
"This is surprising," Childs observes, suggesting that perhaps religious students felt cut off from the university's more secular community, and didn't feel the need to be honest.
Perhaps though, the take away is to ask yourself: if you were put into that experiment, would you go to the trouble of lying over a toonie?