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Dirty work, clean hands: The moral psychology of indirect agency

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Author Info

  • Paharia, Neeru
  • Kassam, Karim S.
  • Greene, Joshua D.
  • Bazerman, Max H.
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    Abstract

    When powerful people cause harm, they often do so indirectly through other people. Are harmful actions carried out through others evaluated less negatively than harmful actions carried out directly? Four experiments examine the moral psychology of indirect agency. Experiments 1A, 1B, and 1C reveal effects of indirect agency under conditions favoring intuitive judgment, but not reflective judgment, using a joint/separate evaluation paradigm. Experiment 2A demonstrates that effects of indirect agency cannot be fully explained by perceived lack of foreknowledge or control on the part of the primary agent. Experiment 2B indicates that reflective moral judgment is sensitive to indirect agency, but only to the extent that indirectness signals reduced foreknowledge and/or control. Experiment 3 indicates that effects of indirect agency result from a failure to automatically consider the potentially dubious motives of agents who cause harm indirectly. Experiment 4 demonstrates an effect of indirect agency on purchase intentions.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6WP2-4W3P05B-1/2/5582404062b5b1af839abc74035d36b2
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

    Volume (Year): 109 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 (July)
    Pages: 134-141

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:109:y:2009:i:2:p:134-141

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/obhdp

    Related research

    Keywords: Ethics Indirect agency Moral psychology Decision-making;

    References

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    1. Bazerman, Max H. & Schroth, Holly A. & Shah, Pri Pradhan & Diekmann, Kristina A. & Tenbrunsel, Ann E., 1994. "The Inconsistent Role of Comparison Others and Procedural Justice in Reactions to Hypothetical Job Descriptions: Implications for Job Acceptance Decisions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 326-352, December.
    2. Hsee, Christopher K., 1996. "The Evaluability Hypothesis: An Explanation for Preference Reversals between Joint and Separate Evaluations of Alternatives," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 247-257, September.
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    Cited by:
    1. Schminke, Marshall & Caldwell, James & Ambrose, Maureen L. & McMahon, Sean R., 2014. "Better than ever? Employee reactions to ethical failures in organizations, and the ethical recovery paradox," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 206-219.
    2. Grossman, Zachary & Oexl, Regine, 2011. "Delegating to a Powerless Intermediary: Does It Reduce Punishment?," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0119d201, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.

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