Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid: Self-Deception, Deception Cues, and Persuasion in Meetings

Jeremiah W. Bentley
Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Robert J. Bloomfield
Cornell University – Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Shai Davidai
Princeton University

Melissa J. Ferguson
Cornell University

April 20, 2016


Two experiments show that face-to-face meetings help users discern reporters’ true beliefs better than those who receive only a written report. Both experiments are based on a ‘cheap talk’ setting, modified to include two features common to accounting settings: reporters base reports on rich information, and (in a meeting condition) have rich channels of communication to users. Experiment 1 shows that meetings improve users’ ability to discern the beliefs reporters held before they had an incentive to deceive the user. Once reporters learned of their incentive to deceive users, they revised their beliefs toward what they wanted users to believe (they self-deceived); those who revised more were more successful in their deception. Experiment 2 shows that users discerned reporters’ beliefs through linguistic tone: reporters who believed their reports used more positive words. The results highlight the importance of face-to-face meetings and provide experimental support for Trivers’ self-deception theory.

Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid- Self-Deception, Deception Cues, and Persuasion in Meetings

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