Field experiments on dishonesty and stealing: what have we learned in the last 40 years?

Abstract

Objectives

Field experiments combine the benefits of the experimental method and the study of human behavior in real-life settings, providing high internal and external validity. This article aims to review the field experimental evidence on the causes of offending.

Methods

We carried out a systematic search for field experiments studying stealing or monetary dishonesty reported since 1979.

Results

The search process resulted in 60 field experiments conducted within multiple fields of study, mainly in economics and management, which were grouped into four categories: Fraudulent/ dishonest behavior, Stealing, Keeping money, and Shoplifting.

Conclusions

The reviewed studies provide a wide variety of methods and techniques that allow the real-world study of influences on offending and dishonest behavior. We hope that this summary will inspire criminologists to design and carry out realistic field experiments to test theories of offending, so that criminology can become an experimental science.

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Funding

This study was conducted at the Psychology Research Centre (CIPsi/UM) School of Psychology, University of Minho, supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the Portuguese State Budget (UIDB/01662/2020). The first author was supported by a doctoral grant from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT - SFRH/BD/122919/2016).

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Correspondence to Hugo S. Gomes.

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Gomes, H.S., Farrington, D.P., Defoe, I.N. et al. Field experiments on dishonesty and stealing: what have we learned in the last 40 years?. J Exp Criminol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-021-09459-w

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Keywords

  • Field experiments
  • Naturalistic experiments
  • Stealing
  • Dishonesty
  • Systematic review