Here’s a simple experiment: separate two people. Give one person, the sender information about two packets of money, a small sum and a larger sum. Let them then tell the other person, the receiver, about the two packets, and give them the choice of which one they can have. Will the sender lie or not, in order to trick the receiver into picking the smaller packet?
The result in college students in Canada is that roughly 50% of the subjects lie. Before we go on, be sure to put this in context: this result is only valid in one particular culture. Related economic tests have found that there are many other cultures that value giving over receiving, and that would skew the interpretation of this one, so we’re not looking at broader human properties, but solely at the properties of products of one narrow culture. OK? OK.
The interesting result is a finer breakdown of the individuals who were more likely to lie. Mostly, no consistent associations were found, except that membership in any of these three groups were more likely to predict lying: a) Business majors, b) children of divorce, and c) people who say religion is important in their lives. I’m sorry, business majors, but (a) doesn’t surprise me at all. (b) I would not expect; I wondered if financial insecurity played a role, but they report no correlation with socioeconomic status or student debt. Hmmm.
Again, (c) does not surprise me in the slightest. I’ve known too many Christians. Sorry, believers, you’re not all bad, but man have you got a lot of hypocrites in your ranks. I would actually expect that because parasites are more likely to choose to blend in with the dominant group.
I would suggest a variation on the experiment, though. Pair the senders; I’d guess that those students professing a strong religious belief would show a strong reversal, being far less likely to lie, if a co-believer were there to witness. On the other hand, I’d bet that two business majors acting as senders would high-five each other with a successful lie. Put a couple of Libertarians in there, though, and they’d grab both packets and sneak out of the room.
Yeah, I have a hierarchy of well-earned cynicism.