Open Conference Systems, 16th SGBED & XII ESPM International Conference in Management

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long Wang

Last modified: 2019-03-26


Although both white lies and black lies are deceptive, white lies are typically seen as innocuous, legitimate, and even praiseworthy while black lies come across as selfish, malicious, and objectionable. These kinds of intuitive judgments become problematic, however, if people who tell white lies also tell more black lies. We conducted two behavioral experiments to investigate the boundaries and connections between white and black lies. Study 1 showed that people who first told white lies were then more likely to tell black lies, whether their white lies were altruistic (only helping recipients) or Pareto (helping both recipients and themselves). In Study 2, half of the participants played a white lie game (Pareto or altruistic) first and then a black lie game and the other half played a black lie game and then a white lie game (Pareto or altruistic). The results suggested that telling white lies increased people’s likelihood of telling subsequent black lies but telling black lies did not necessarily increase their likelihood of telling subsequent white lies. We discuss the implications of these results for business ethics and organizations.


Honesty, Ethics, Black lies, White lies, Pareto vs. altruistic white lies.



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