Intuitive Honesty Versus Dishonesty: Meta-Analytic Evidence

Nils C. Köbis, Bruno Verschuere, Yoella Bereby-Meyer, David Rand, Shaul Shalvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Is self-serving lying intuitive? Or does honesty come naturally? Many experiments have manipulated reliance on intuition in behavioral-dishonesty tasks, with mixed results. We present two meta-analyses (with evidential value) testing whether an intuitive mind-set affects the proportion of liars (k = 73; n = 12,711) and the magnitude of lying (k = 50; n = 6,473). The results indicate that when dishonesty harms abstract others, promoting intuition causes more people to lie, log odds ratio = 0.38, p =.0004, and people to lie more, Hedges’s g = 0.26, p <.0001. However, when dishonesty inflicts harm on concrete others, promoting intuition has no significant effect on dishonesty (p >.63). We propose one potential explanation: The intuitive appeal of prosociality may cancel out the intuitive selfish appeal of dishonesty, suggesting that the social consequences of lying could be a promising key to the riddle of intuition’s role in honesty. We discuss limitations such as the relatively unbalanced distribution of studies using concrete versus abstract victims and the overall large interstudy heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-796
Number of pages19
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • behavioral ethics
  • cheating
  • ethical behavior
  • honesty
  • intuition
  • lying
  • moral psychology
  • unethical behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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