Situational and dispositional determinants of intentional deceiving

Maria Serena Panasiti, Enea Francesco Pavone, Arcangelo Merla, Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does opportunity make the thief or are people dispositionally prone to deceive? The interaction between personality and the circumstances surrounding deception is crucial to understand what promotes dishonesty in our society. Due to its inherent spontaneity and sociality, deceptive behaviour may be hardly reproducible in experimental settings. We developed a novel paradigm in the form of an interactive game where participants can choose whether to lie to another person in situations of loss vs. gain, and of no-reputation-risk vs. reputation-risk linked to the disclosure of their deceptive behaviour to others. Thus, our ecological paradigm allowed subjects to spontaneously decide when to lie and face the challenge of deceiving others. In the case of loss, participants lied to reverse the outcome in their favour. Deception was lower in the reputation-risk condition where personality traits concerning social interactions also played an important role. The results suggest that deception is definitely promoted by unfavourable events, and that maintaining one's own reputation encourages honesty, particularly in socially inclined individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19465
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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