M-RCBG Faculty Working Paper No. 2014-03

Artful Paltering: The Risks and Rewards of Using Truthful Statements to Mislead Others

Todd Rogers, Richard Zeckhauser, Francesca Gino, Maurice Schweitzer and Mike Norton
September 2014


We document a common type of deception in interpersonal contexts: the active use of truthful statements to convey a mistaken impression. Paltering is distinct from lies of commission in that it involves only truthful statements. It is distinct from lies of omission in that it involves actively misleading targets rather than passively omitting to share relevant information. A pilot study reveals that paltering is a common negotiation tactic. Six experiments demonstrate that paltering in negotiation can help palterers claim value, but can also increase the likelihood of impasse and harm palterers’ reputations. Indeed, targets perceive paltering as the ethical equivalent of making false statements. At the same time, palterers – and outside observers – perceive paltering as more ethical than targets do. We add to the growing literature examining the antecedents and consequences of deception, demonstrating the prevalence and consequences of paltering in negotiation.

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