Studying economics can make you a liar, a study suggests.
Researchers found that students studying business and economics were significantly more likely to lie for financial gain.
Researchers Raul Lopez-Perez and Eli Spiegelman, both economists themselves, wanted to test the validity of a 2009 study that found that economic students were significantly more likely to lie than students with majors.
In the study, participants were awarded when they lied, but received nothing when they told the truth.
The experiment involved two participants, but only the first had the option to lie. The first participants or "decision makers" were asked to sit in front of a computer screen that would show them either a blue or green circle. The first participant would then have to send a message to the second participant telling them what color had appeared.
If the first participant reported that the circle appearing on the screen was blue, they would get 14 euros, and if they reported that the circle was green they would get 15 euros.
Researchers designed the experiment so that when a blue circle was flashed on the computer screen, they were forced to decide whether they would be honest or lie and say that the circle is green to make an extra euro.
No matter what the first participant reported, the second participant always received 10 euros and never finds out what the color actually was.
Researchers said that the rules of the experiment were transparent, and the first participant knew that they would never be caught lying and would never have to worry about whether the second participant knew they lied.
Lopez-Perez and Spiegelman said that the rational, self-serving way, would be to lie, but emotion aversion to dishonesty might prevent a person from lying, even if that means losing a euro.
The experiment included 258 students majoring in various disciplines including business, economics, humanities, English, science, law, psychology and others.
The findings show that even though a large proportion of students lied from every field, students majoring in business or economics lied significantly more often than those in other majors.
Specifically, only 21.9 percent of economics students and 23.4 of business students were honest when reporting the colors of the flashing circles.
In contrast, 52.9 percent of humanities students and surprisingly 52.4 percent of law students were honest.
The findings held true even after researchers accounted for gender and faith (religious or non-religious).
To answer the question of whether studying economics make students more rationally dishonest or whether rationally dishonest students are more likely to major in economics, researchers used "instrumental variable" analysis, a statistical technique economists frequently use to prove causation.
After analyzing the results, researchers conclude that "B&E (business and economics) students tend to conform more neatly with the homo economicus paradigm, or alternatively with a utilitarian or consequentialistic mode of reasoning in moral matters," or to put in simpler terms: economics students lied more in the study because they learned to do so.