| Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Signing at the Beginning Makes Ethics Salient and Decreases Dishonest Self-reports in Comparison to Signing at the End
Many written forms required by businesses and governments rely on honest reporting. Proof of honest intent is typically provided through signature at the end of the document, e.g., tax returns or insurance policy forms. Still, people sometimes cheat to advance their financial self-interests—at great costs to society. We test an easy-to-implement method to discourage dishonesty: signing at the beginning rather than at the end of a self-report, thereby reversing the order of the current practice. Using lab and field experiments, we find that signing before rather than after the opportunity to cheat makes ethics salient when it is needed most and significantly reduces dishonesty.