Cognitive Processing

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 291–300 | Cite as

Self-serving dishonest decisions can show facilitated cognitive dynamics

  • Maryam TabatabaeianEmail author
  • Rick Dale
  • Nicholas D. Duran
Research Report


We use a novel task to test two competing hypotheses concerning the cognitive processes involved in dishonesty. Many existing accounts of deception imply that in order to act dishonestly one has to use cognitive control to overcome a bias toward the truth, which results in more time and effort. A recent hypothesis suggests that lying in order to serve self-interest may be a rapid, even automatic tendency taking less time than refraining from lying. In the current study, we track the action dynamics of potentially dishonest decisions to investigate the underlying cognitive processes. Participants are asked to privately predict the outcome of a virtual coin flip, report their accuracy and receive bonus credit for accurate predictions. The movements of the computer cursor toward the target answer are recorded and used to characterize the dynamics of decisions. Our results suggest that when a self-serving condition holds, decisions that have a high probability of being dishonest take less time and experience less hesitation.


Decision-making Action dynamics Dishonesty Cognitive processes 



This research was supported by an NSF BCS Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship to the third author. The work was also partly supported by NSF Grant BCS-0720322 to the second author.

Supplementary material

10339_2015_660_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 4013 kb)


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maryam Tabatabaeian
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rick Dale
    • 1
  • Nicholas D. Duran
    • 2
  1. 1.Cognitive and Information Sciences, Social Sciences and Management BuildingUniversity of California MercedMercedUSA
  2. 2.Arizona State UniversityGlendaleUSA

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