Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Economists lie more

Economists have a bad reputation, and this does not date from the recent crisis. This comes largely from those willing to prostitute themselves for various think tanks, lobby groups or trade group, or their employer, acting like a spokesperson than a critically-thinking and independent economist. Any many of those call themselves economists without actually being one (hence my earlier call for a certification). In the end, the general public thinks we are lying, mostly. Is there any truth to this?

Raúl López-Pérez and Eli Spiegelman performed some experiments where lying could be a winning strategy. While religiosity or gender does not impact the propensity of lying, one's undergraduate major matters, and the Business and Economics students fare the worst. And this does not come from selection into the major, it is acquired. So economists do lie more, because they see incentives to do so. Hence journalists should learn to interview economists that have no incentives to lie.

Somewhat relatedly, economists are also less generous, but in that case it is not acquired, but rather stemming from selection. But in both cases, it shows economists conform more to homo oeconomicus,


Vilfredo said...

Good luck with getting journalists to interview economists with no incentive to lie. Journalists cannot help interviewing politicians.

Kansan said...

I wonder whether law students were included in that study.

Matthias said...

Just for the sake of completeness: There are at least two papers which report evidence for the opposite, i.e., for economists being more honest.

Laband and Beil (Public Choice, 1999)

Yezer, Goldfarb & Poppen (J Econ Persp, 1996)

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is the fact that they lie. They just never agree and if they never agree...then one can always be found to support whatever view deemed worthy.

try line up all the economists from end to end and they never meet.