This post is co-authored with a team of researchers who have chosen to remain anonymous. They uncovered most of the evidence reported in this post. These researchers are not connected in any way to the papers described herein.
In 2012, Shu, Mazar, Gino, Ariely, and Bazerman published a three-study paper in PNAS (.htm) reporting that dishonesty can be reduced by asking people to sign a statement of honest intent before providing information (i.e., at the top of a document) rather than after providing information (i.e., at the bottom of a document). In 2020, Kristal, Whillans, and the five original authors published a follow-up in PNAS entitled, “Signing at the beginning versus at the end does not decrease dishonesty” (.htm). They reported six studies that failed to replicate the two original lab studies, including one attempt at a direct replication and five attempts at conceptual replications.
Our focus here is on Study 3 in the 2012 paper, a field experiment (N = 13,488) conducted by an auto insurance company in the southeastern United States under the supervision of the fourth author. Customers were asked to report the current odometer reading of up to four cars covered by their policy. They were randomly assigned to sign a statement indicating, “I promise that the information I am providing is true” either at the top or bottom of the form. Customers assigned to the 'sign-at-the-top' condition reported driving 2,400 fewer miles (10.3%) than those assigned to the 'sign-at-the-bottom' condition.