The abundance effect: Unethical behavior in the presence of wealth
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.
Volume (Year): 109 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (July)
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