Here's One Way to Keep People Honest When Filling Out Forms

Where you sign your name on a form might change how you fill it out.

Brandon Keim wrote for Wired that scientists believe putting signature boxes at the top of forms—as opposed to at the bottom—encourages honesty when answers questions like mileage claims.

To see whether this signature effect could be harnessed to reduce cheating, Shu’s team enrolled 101 college students and employees in performing two self-reported tasks: solving math problems correctly in exchange for money, and claiming reimbursements for expenses on a library trip.

For each task, test participants filled out a claims form. Some signed at the bottom, others at the top, and others didn’t sign at all. Top-signers reported solving fewer problems, and claimed fewer expenses, than the other groups.


Considering that we humans lie kind of a lot, it's not unreasonable to think that there's a pretty serious truth gap on reporting mileage, reimbursements, and other things. If you're handing a form like this to somebody, consider having them sign at the top rather than at the bottom.

And hey, maybe Harvard should try that in its government classes.

Photo via Flickr (cc) user @boetter.