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Language and Consumer Dishonesty A Self-Diagnosticity Theory

How does foreign language influence consumer dishonesty?

Last tended on Sep 11, 2021


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Consumer dishonesty produces substantial costs

Although most consumers lie in their native language (hereafter, L1), they can also lie in their second language (L2)

Most people in the world speak more than one language, and the number of multilingual people is increasing (Grosjean 2010), so it is important for consumer researchers to understand how language shapes lying behavior.

we primarily focus on selfish lying that is motivated by a desire to gain (or avoid losing) resources such as money or time.

Consumer research has examined both consumer lying and bilingualism extensively but separately.

Prior research linking bilingualism and lying can be divided into three categories.

Based on these findings, one may expect L2 to increase lying relative to L1. This prediction, nonetheless, contradicts the third line of research on language and incentivized lying behavior.

authors propose that this inconsistency is best explained by cultural accommodation, such that people adjusted their honesty level according to the perceived cultural gap between L1 and L2.

We suggest that part of the difficulty to derive theoretical insights from these behavioral studies stems from the paradigms used for lie detection

Indeed, recent research shows that the motive to appear competent in an ability test undermines the motive to behave morally

There is overwhelming evidence that people are inclined to tell the truth, even when the payoff of lying is substantial and the risk of being caught is nonexistent (for a meta-analytic review, see Abeler, Nosenzo, and Raymond 2019). This suggests that lying is intrinsically costly to consumers, that is, lying betrays a valued part of one’s identity.

theory of self-concept maintenance, according to which people lie when doing so is easy to justify.

A common premise underlying these theories is that the extent to which people view lying as diagnostic of dishonesty is context specific

Hence, people avoid lying in contexts where lying is perceived as diagnostic of dishonesty.

we suggest that lying behavior is not simply determined by the diagnosticity of the dishonest self, but in general by the diagnosticity of the self-concept that is situationally salient.

Nikolova, Hristina, Cait Lamberton, and Nicole Verrochi Coleman (2018), “Stranger Danger: When and Why Consumer Dyads Behave Less Ethically than Individuals,” Journal of Consumer Research, 45 (1), 90–108.