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Cheating more for less: Upward social comparisons motivate the poorly compensated to cheat

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  • John, Leslie K.
  • Loewenstein, George
  • Rick, Scott I.

Abstract

Intuitively, people should cheat more when cheating is more lucrative, but we find that the effect of performance-based pay-rates on dishonesty depends on how readily people can compare their pay-rate to that of others. In Experiment 1, participants were paid 5 cents or 25 cents per self-reported point in a trivia task, and half were aware that they could have received the alternative pay-rate. Lower pay-rates increased cheating when the prospect of a higher pay-rate was salient. Experiment 2 illustrates that this effect is driven by the ease with which poorly compensated participants can compare their pay to that of others who earn a higher pay-rate. Our results suggest that low pay-rates are, in and of themselves, unlikely to promote dishonesty. Instead, it is the salience of upward social comparisons that encourages the poorly compensated to cheat.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:123:y:2014:i:2:p:101-109
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2013.08.002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Galeotti, Fabio & Kline, Reuben & Orsini, Raimondello, 2017. "When foul play seems fair: Exploring the link between just deserts and honesty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 451-467.
    2. Dezső, Linda & Loewenstein, George & Steinhart, Jonathan & Neszveda, Gábor & Szászi, Barnabás, 2015. "The pernicious role of asymmetric history in negotiations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 430-438.
    3. repec:eee:jeborg:v:137:y:2017:i:c:p:428-444 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Pettit, Nathan C. & Doyle, Sarah P. & Lount, Robert B. & To, Christopher, 2016. "Cheating to get ahead or to avoid falling behind? The effect of potential negative versus positive status change on unethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 172-183.
    5. repec:eee:gamebe:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:123-134 is not listed on IDEAS

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