Motivated interpretations of deceptive information

Sigal Vainapel, Yaniv Shani*, Shaul Shalvi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine whether people seek information that might help them make sense of others’ dishonest behavior. Participants were told that a hypothetical partner (either a friend or a stranger) had engaged in a task in which the partner could lie to boost their earnings at the expense of the participant’s earnings. Participants were less likely to search for information that can justify potential dishonest behavior conducted by a friend than by a stranger (Experiment 1). When participants knew for certain that their partners had lied to them, they were less likely to assume that that the lie was justified when told that the partner was a friend rather than a stranger (Experiment 2). The results imply that people are more likely to search for information that may reduce the severity of possible dishonest behavior when a stranger, rather than a friend, is responsible for the behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number297
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Behavioral ethics
  • Dishonesty
  • Information seeking
  • Lies
  • Moral judgment

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