Eliciting Accurate Responses to Consumption Questions among IDPs in South Sudan Using “Honesty Primes”

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Misreporting is a well-known challenge for researchers in social sciences. This issue is especially prevalent if incentives for misreporting exist, for example, to claim certain benefits or hide illegal behavior. Internally displaced persons are a population that is highly dependent on aid receipts and, thus, have strong incentives to underreport consumption levels. To improve reporting for such vulnerable populations, this paper proposes to integrate “honesty primes” into the consumption module of the questionnaire. Honesty primes are unconscious stimuli that induce a certain cognition or behavior. The study assesses the effectiveness of a bundle of randomly assigned primes within a sample of internally displaced persons in South Sudan. In line with the main hypothesis, positive and significant effects arise for low consumption quantiles, especially consumption quantities that are more susceptible to manipulation. Hence, honesty primes can act as a cost-effective tool to induce more accurate reporting. Further research is needed to identify more effective primes for the respective population of interest. 

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