Bridging Self-Concept Maintenance and Truth-Default Theories

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University of Alabama Libraries

The present research examines the effects of topic intensity, categorization, and the raising of attention to moral standards have on honesty in communication. This study sought to extend a theory of deception from behavioral economics, self-concept maintenance (Mazar et al., 2008), to the field of communication studies. Participants gave two extemporaneous speeches about their opinions on two social topics, one high-intensity and one low-intensity. Participants also completed a questionnaire in which they wrote about their speeches in an open-ended format and completed self-reported honesty measures. Half of the participants in the study received honesty reminders throughout the duration of the study. Analyses revealed that writing about a high-intensity topic significantly lowered the amount of self-references participants used, and significantly raised the amount of negative emotion present in their word choice as compared to writing about a low-intensity topic, which is an indication of deceit in communication. Writing about a high-intensity topic also lowered the amount of authenticity used in the word choice of participants. However, the intensity of the topic had no significant effect on the self-reported honesty scores of participants. Honesty reminders had no significant effect on the word choice of participants nor their self-reported honesty. The findings of this study provide insight into the effects of topic intensity and communication context on honesty and the self-concept of communicators, as well as reveal the extent to which the tenets of self-concept maintenance (Mazar et al., 2008) extend to communication. Limitations and future research are discussed.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
communication context, honesty reminders, self-concept maintenance, topic intensity, truth-default theory, deception