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The abundance effect: Unethical behavior in the presence of wealth

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  • Gino, Francesca
  • Pierce, Lamar

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:109:y:2009:i:2:p:142-155
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Yam, Kai Chi & Chen, Xiao-Ping & Reynolds, Scott J., 2014. "Ego depletion and its paradoxical effects on ethical decision making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 124(2), pages 204-214.
    2. 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.
    3. Desai, Sreedhari D. & Kouchaki, Maryam, 2015. "Work-report formats and overbilling: How unit-reporting vs. cost-reporting increases accountability and decreases overbilling," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 79-88.
    4. repec:eee:joreco:v:34:y:2017:i:c:p:168-176 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. Bazerman, Max H. & Sezer, Ovul, 2016. "Bounded awareness: Implications for ethical decision making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 95-105.
    7. 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.
    8. Yam, Kai Chi & Reynolds, Scott J. & Hirsh, Jacob B., 2014. "The hungry thief: Physiological deprivation and its effects on unethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 123-133.
    9. 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.
    10. Rosenbaum, Stephen Mark & Billinger, Stephan & Stieglitz, Nils, 2014. "Let’s be honest: A review of experimental evidence of honesty and truth-telling," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 181-196.
    11. 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.
    12. Hildreth, John Angus D. & Gino, Francesca & Bazerman, Max, 2016. "Blind loyalty? When group loyalty makes us see evil or engage in it," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 16-36.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. Winterich, Karen Page & Mittal, Vikas & Morales, Andrea C., 2014. "Protect thyself: How affective self-protection increases self-interested, unethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 151-161.

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