Friday, July 8, 2011

How should I lie?

Is it OK to lie? The usual answer is that it depends. Big lies are frowned upon, while small lies are somewhat tolerated. Does this necessarily mean I should avoid lying?

Gerald Eisenkopf, Ruslan Gurtoviy and Verena Utikal study the size of lies in an experimental setup. Their first observation is that it depends whom you are lying to. Honest people punish according to lie size, while chronic liars really do not care. Their second is that big lies are punished more than small lies. This is hardly surprising. What would have been more interesting to learn would be whether the punishment function is concave or convex, that is, whether the returns to scale are increasing or decreasing. In some sense we already have some idea about this by looking at tax penalties, which are usually proportional to the offense, plus a fix cost. And ultimately, one would want to compare the shape of the penalty function to that of the benefit function. Then I would finally know whether I should lie big or small.

No comments: