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Bringing ethics into focus: How regulatory focus and risk preferences influence (Un)ethical behavior

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  • Gino, Francesca
  • Margolis, Joshua D.
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    Abstract

    In four laboratory studies, we find that regulatory focus induced by situational cues (such as the framing of an unrelated task) or primed influences people's likelihood to cross ethical boundaries. A promotion focus leads individuals to be more likely to act unethically than a prevention focus (Studies 1, 2, and 3). These higher levels of dishonesty are explained by the influence of a person's induced regulatory focus on his or her behavior toward risk. A promotion focus leads to risk-seeking behaviors, while a prevention focus leads to risk avoidance (Study 3). Through higher levels of dishonesty, promotion focus also results in higher levels of virtuous behavior (Studies 2 and 3), thus providing evidence for compensatory ethics. Our results also demonstrate that the framing of ethics (e.g., through an organization's ethics code) influences individuals' ethical behavior and does so differently depending on an individual's induced regulatory focus (Study 4).

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    Bibliographic Info

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

    Volume (Year): 115 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 2 (July)
    Pages: 145-156

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:115:y:2011:i:2:p:145-156

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

    Related research

    Keywords: Regulatory focus Promotion Prevention Ethical decision making Unethical behavior Dishonesty Risk preferences;

    References

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    1. Crowe, Ellen & Higgins, E. Tory, 1997. "Regulatory Focus and Strategic Inclinations: Promotion and Prevention in Decision-Making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 117-132, February.
    2. Ann-Renée Blais & Elke U. Weber, 2006. "A Domain-Specific Risk-Taking (DOSPERT) scale for adult populations," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 1, pages 33-47, July.
    3. Brockner, Joel & Higgins, E. Tory & Low, Murray B., 2004. "Regulatory focus theory and the entrepreneurial process," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 203-220, March.
    4. Chen-Bo Zhong & Gillian Ku & Robert Lount & J. Murnighan, 2010. "Compensatory Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 92(3), pages 323-339, March.
    5. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
    6. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
    7. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
    8. Mead, N.L. & Baumeister, R.F. & Gino, F. & Schweitzer, M.E. & Ariely, D., 2009. "Too tired to tell the truth: Self-control resource depletion and dishonesty," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-3557352, Tilburg University.
    9. Gino, Francesca & Pierce, Lamar, 2009. "The abundance effect: Unethical behavior in the presence of wealth," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 142-155, July.
    10. Ann-Renée Blais & Elke U. Weber, 2006. "A Domain-Specific Risk-Taking (DOSPERT)Scale for Adult Populations," CIRANO Working Papers 2006s-24, CIRANO.
    11. Harrison, James D. & Young, Jane M. & Butow, Phyllis & Salkeld, Glenn & Solomon, Michael J., 2005. "Is it worth the risk? A systematic review of instruments that measure risk propensity for use in the health setting," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(6), pages 1385-1396, March.
    12. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
    13. Pham, Michel Tuan & Avnet, Tamar, 2004. " Ideals and Oughts and the Reliance on Affect versus Substance in Persuasion," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(4), pages 503-18, March.
    14. Echo Wen Wan & Jiewen Hong & Brian Sternthal, 2009. "The Effect of Regulatory Orientation and Decision Strategy on Brand Judgments," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(6), pages 1026-1038, 04.
    15. Brockner, Joel & Higgins, E. Tory, 2001. "Regulatory Focus Theory: Implications for the Study of Emotions at Work," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 35-66, September.
    16. Forster, Jens & Higgins, E. Tory & Bianco, Amy Taylor, 2003. "Speed/accuracy decisions in task performance: Built-in trade-off or separate strategic concerns?," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 148-164, January.
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    Cited by:
    1. Shalvi, Shaul & Reijseger, Gaby & Handgraaf, Michel J.J. & Appelt, Kirstin C. & ten Velden, Femke S. & Giacomantonio, Mauro & De Dreu, Carsten K.W., 2013. "Pay to walk away: Prevention buyers prefer to avoid negotiation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 40-49.
    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.

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