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Leveling the playing field: Dishonesty in the face of threat

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  • Atanasov, Pavel
  • Dana, Jason
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    Abstract

    We examined the effects of framing and perceived vulnerability on dishonest behavior in competitive environments. Participants were randomly matched into pairs and took a short multiple-choice test, the relative score of which determined their merit-based payoffs. After learning about the test scores, participants were asked to report them, thus affecting the final payoffs. Framing was varied as participants could either report their own scores or the scores of their counterparts. The presence of threat, or vulnerability to other players’ dishonesty, was varied as either one or both players in a pair could misreport scores. Participants who reported their counterparts’ scores were more likely to report honestly than participants who entered their own score. Participants, whose payoffs were threatened by their opponents’ misreporting, were more likely to cheat to the fullest extent. Furthermore, we found that framing significantly reduced misreporting in the absence, but not in the presence of threat. Results suggest that when actors feel vulnerable to other people’s dishonesty they would often cheat as much as they can in order to “level the playing field”, even when they strongly disapprove of the behavior.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Psychology.

    Volume (Year): 32 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 5 ()
    Pages: 809-817

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:32:y:2011:i:5:p:809-817

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

    Related research

    Keywords: Dishonesty; Cheating; Ethical decision making; Behavioral ethics; Framing;

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    References

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    1. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
    2. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
    3. Nina Mazar & Dan Ariely, 2006. "Dishonesty in everyday life and its policy implications," Working Papers 06-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    4. Eichenberger, Reiner & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, 1998. " Rational Moralists: The Role of Fairness in Democratic Economic Politics," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 94(1-2), pages 191-210, January.
    5. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    6. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
    7. Erin L. Krupka & Roberto A. Weber, 2013. "Identifying Social Norms Using Coordination Games: Why Does Dictator Game Sharing Vary?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 495-524, 06.
    8. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
    9. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
    10. Shalvi, Shaul & Dana, Jason & Handgraaf, Michel J.J. & De Dreu, Carsten K.W., 2011. "Justified ethicality: Observing desired counterfactuals modifies ethical perceptions and behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 181-190, July.
    11. Nicholas Bardsley, 2008. "Dictator game giving: altruism or artefact?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 122-133, June.
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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.

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