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The abundance effect: Unethical behavior in the presence of wealth

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  • Gino, Francesca
  • Pierce, Lamar
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    Abstract

    Three laboratory studies investigated the hypothesis that the presence of wealth may influence people's propensity to engage in unethical behavior for financial gain. In the experiments, participants were given the opportunity to cheat by overstating their performance on an anagram task. In each study, one group was stimulated by the visible proximity of monetary wealth. We found that the presence of abundant wealth led to more frequent cheating than an environment of scarcity. Our experiments also investigated the potential mechanisms behind this effect. The results showed that the presence of abundant wealth provoked feelings of envy toward wealthy others that, in turn, led to unethical behavior. Our findings offer insights into when and why people engage in unethical behavior.

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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: 142-155

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:109:y:2009:i:2:p:142-155

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

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    Keywords: Envy Inequity Money Unethical behavior Wealth;

    References

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    1. Cable, Daniel M. & Judge, Timothy A., 1996. "Person-Organization Fit, Job Choice Decisions, and Organizational Entry," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 294-311, September.
    2. Hoch, Stephen J & Loewenstein, George F, 1991. " Time-Inconsistent Preferences and Consumer Self-Control," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 492-507, March.
    3. Maurice Schweitzer & Donald Gibson, 2008. "Fairness, Feelings, and Ethical Decision- Making: Consequences of Violating Community Standards of Fairness," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 77(3), pages 287-301, February.
    4. Greenberg, Jerald, 1993. "Stealing in the Name of Justice: Informational and Interpersonal Moderators of Theft Reactions to Underpayment Inequity," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 81-103, February.
    5. Steven D. Levitt, 1999. "The changing relationship between income and crime victimization," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 87-98.
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    Cited by:
    1. Gino, Francesca & Schweitzer, Maurice E. & Mead, Nicole L. & Ariely, Dan, 2011. "Unable to resist temptation: How self-control depletion promotes unethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 191-203, July.
    2. Pittarello, Andrea & Rubaltelli, Enrico & Rumiati, Rino, 2013. "You can’t be better than me: The role of the reference point in modulating people’s pursuit of wealth," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 65-76.
    3. Wiltermuth, Scott S., 2011. "Cheating more when the spoils are split," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 157-168, July.
    4. Reynolds, Scott J. & Dang, Carolyn T. & Yam, Kai Chi & Leavitt, Keith, 2014. "The role of moral knowledge in everyday immorality: What does it matter if I know what is right?," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 124-137.
    5. Gasiorowska, Agata & Zaleskiewicz, Tomasz & Wygrab, Sandra, 2012. "Would you do something for me? The effects of money activation on social preferences and social behavior in young children," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 603-608.
    6. Van Zant, Alex B. & Kray, Laura J., 2013. ""I Can't Lie to Your Face": Minimal Face-to-Face Interaction Promotes Honestry," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt88f3409v, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    7. Kouchaki, Maryam & Smith-Crowe, Kristin & Brief, Arthur P. & Sousa, Carlos, 2013. "Seeing green: Mere exposure to money triggers a business decision frame and unethical outcomes," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 53-61.
    8. Gino, Francesca & Margolis, Joshua D., 2011. "Bringing ethics into focus: How regulatory focus and risk preferences influence (Un)ethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 145-156, July.

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