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Justified ethicality: Observing desired counterfactuals modifies ethical perceptions and behavior

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  • Shalvi, Shaul
  • Dana, Jason
  • Handgraaf, Michel J.J.
  • De Dreu, Carsten K.W.
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    Abstract

    Employing a die-under-cup paradigm, we study the extent to which people lie when it is transparently clear they cannot be caught. We asked participants to report the outcome of a private die roll and gain money according to their reports. Results suggest that the degree of lying depends on the extent to which self-justifications are available. Specifically, when people are allowed to roll the die three times to ensure its legitimacy, but only the first roll is supposed to "count," we find evidence that the highest outcome of the three rolls is reported. Eliminating the ability to observe more than one roll reduces lying. Additional results suggest that observing desired counterfactuals, in the form of additional rolls not meant to determine pay, attenuates the degree to which people perceive lies as unethical. People seem to derive value from self-justifications allowing them to lie for money while feeling honest.

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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: 181-190

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:115:y:2011:i:2:p:181-190

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

    Related research

    Keywords: Lies Deception Ethical decision making Behavioral economics Behavioral ethics Morality Ethics Counterfactual thinking Norm Theory Mutability;

    References

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    Cited by:
    1. Gill, David & Prowse, Victoria L. & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2012. "Cheating in the Workplace: An Experimental Study of the Impact of Bonuses and Productivity," IZA Discussion Papers 6725, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. 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.
    3. Shalvi, Shaul & Leiser, David, 2013. "Moral firmness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 400-407.
    4. Toke Fosgaard & Lars Gaarn Hansen & Marco Piovesan, 2012. "Separating Will from Grace: An Experiment on Conformity and Awareness in Cheating," IFRO Working Paper 2012/15, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    5. Wiltermuth, Scott S. & Bennett, Victor M. & Pierce, Lamar, 2013. "Doing as they would do: How the perceived ethical preferences of third-party beneficiaries impact ethical decision-making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 280-290.
    6. Ploner, Matteo & Regner, Tobias, 2013. "Self-image and moral balancing: An experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 374-383.
    7. Atanasov, Pavel & Dana, Jason, 2011. "Leveling the playing field: Dishonesty in the face of threat," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 809-817.
    8. Urs Fischbacher & Verena Utikal, 2011. "Disadvantageous lies in individual decisions," TWI Research Paper Series 71, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universit├Ąt Konstanz.
    9. Ruffle, Bradley J. & Tobol, Yossef, 2014. "Honest on Mondays: Honesty and the temporal separation between decisions and payoffs," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 126-135.
    10. John, Leslie K. & Loewenstein, George & Rick, Scott I., 2014. "Cheating more for less: Upward social comparisons motivate the poorly compensated to cheat," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 101-109.
    11. 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.
    12. Lewis, Alan & Bardis, Alexander & Flint, Chloe & Mason, Claire & Smith, Natalya & Tickle, Charlotte & Zinser, Jennifer, 2012. "Drawing the line somewhere: An experimental study of moral compromise," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 718-725.
    13. Abeler, Johannes & Becker, Anke & Falk, Armin, 2014. "Representative evidence on lying costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 96-104.
    14. Gino, Francesca & Ayal, Shahar & Ariely, Dan, 2013. "Self-serving altruism? The lure of unethical actions that benefit others," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 285-292.

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