A recent research study conducted with 640 adolescents aged 10-14 years in India, has found that teens who promise to be truthful are less likely to ‘cheat’ than those who do not, even when they are sure they won’t be found out. Researchers led by Dr Patricia Kanngiesser, associate professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth, conducted a series of experiments to test the effectiveness of inviting participants to promise to be truthful. They measured the degree of dishonesty by comparing participants’ self-reported results to what would be statistically expected. Comparing the control groups, children who promised to be truthful reported lower cheating rates.
“Promises are what we call ‘speech acts’ and create commitments by merely saying specific words. So one would think that they have very little binding power. In contrast, research has shown over and over again that many people do keep their word, even at personal cost. This study provides more evidence of that, and suggests extracting promises could be a powerful way of encouraging and sustaining honest behaviour in academic contexts,” says Dr. Kanngiesser