IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/joepsy/v76y2020ics0167487018306482.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Constraining temptation: How specific and general rules mitigate the effect of personal gain on unethical behavior

Author

Listed:
  • Mulder, Laetitia B.
  • Rink, Floor
  • Jordan, Jennifer

Abstract

Rules are often installed in order to constrain unethical behavior. Rules can be framed either in specific (“Don’t accepts gifts from clients.”) or general terms (“Don’t engage in conflicts of interest.”). The current investigation examines the effect of specific and general rules on unethical behavior and how this effect depends on personal gain resulting from the unethical behavior. The results of three preregistered experiments suggest that both specific and general rules counteract the increase in unethical behavior induced by high personal gain. Although the results were not fully consistent across all studies, specific rules appear more successful in doing this than general rules. In Studies 1 and 3, when personal gain from unethical behavior was (extremely) high, specific rules were more successful in reducing unethical behavior than were general rules. Results of Study 2 suggest that the larger effect of specific rules (compared to general rules) is caused by specific rules preventing people from engaging in moral rationalizations that justify their unethical behavior. A meta-analysis across all studies confirms this overall pattern. This research contributes to theory on rules, ethical codes, and the influence of personal incentives from unethical behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Mulder, Laetitia B. & Rink, Floor & Jordan, Jennifer, 2020. "Constraining temptation: How specific and general rules mitigate the effect of personal gain on unethical behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:76:y:2020:i:c:s0167487018306482
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2019.102242
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167487018306482
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hsee, Christopher K., 1996. "Elastic Justification: How Unjustifiable Factors Influence Judgments," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 122-129, April.
    2. Johannes Abeler & Daniele Nosenzo & Collin Raymond, 2019. "Preferences for Truth‐Telling," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 87(4), pages 1115-1153, July.
    3. Pascual-Ezama, David & Prelec, Drazen & Dunfield, Derek, 2013. "Motivation, money, prestige and cheats," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 367-373.
    4. Shane A. Johnson & Harley E. Ryan & Yisong S. Tian, 2009. "Managerial Incentives and Corporate Fraud: The Sources of Incentives Matter," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 13(1), pages 115-145.
    5. Mulder, Laetitia B. & Aquino, Karl, 2013. "The role of moral identity in the aftermath of dishonesty," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 219-230.
    6. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Jared Harris & Philip Bromiley, 2007. "Incentives to Cheat: The Influence of Executive Compensation and Firm Performance on Financial Misrepresentation," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 18(3), pages 350-367, June.
    8. Feldman Yuval & Harel Alon, 2008. "Social Norms, Self-Interest and Ambiguity of Legal Norms: An Experimental Analysis of the Rule vs. Standard Dilemma," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 81-126, April.
    9. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    10. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
    11. Schweitzer, Maurice E & Hsee, Christopher K, 2002. "Stretching the Truth: Elastic Justification and Motivated Communication of Uncertain Information," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 185-201, September.
    12. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Rilke, Rainer Michael & Schielke, Anne & Walkowitz, Gari, 2014. "Honesty in tournaments," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(1), pages 90-93.
    13. Patrick Erwin, 2011. "Corporate Codes of Conduct: The Effects of Code Content and Quality on Ethical Performance," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 99(4), pages 535-548, April.
    14. Mulder, Laetitia B. & Jordan, Jennifer & Rink, Floor, 2015. "The effect of specific and general rules on ethical decisions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 115-129.
    15. Bahram Soltani, 2014. "The Anatomy of Corporate Fraud: A Comparative Analysis of High Profile American and European Corporate Scandals," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 120(2), pages 251-274, March.
    16. Kajackaite, Agne & Gneezy, Uri, 2017. "Incentives and cheating," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 433-444.
    17. Tine Bock & Patrick Kenhove, 2011. "Double Standards: The Role of Techniques of Neutralization," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 99(2), pages 283-296, March.
    18. Jennifer Kish-Gephart & James Detert & Linda Treviño & Vicki Baker & Sean Martin, 2014. "Situational Moral Disengagement: Can the Effects of Self-Interest be Mitigated?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 125(2), pages 267-285, December.
    19. Gneezy, Uri & Rockenbach, Bettina & Serra-Garcia, Marta, 2013. "Measuring lying aversion," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 293-300.
    20. Uri Gneezy & Agne Kajackaite & Joel Sobel, 2018. "Lying Aversion and the Size of the Lie," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(2), pages 419-453, February.
    21. Muel Kaptein, 2011. "Toward Effective Codes: Testing the Relationship with Unethical Behavior," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 99(2), pages 233-251, March.
    22. Thompson, Leigh & Loewenstein, George, 1992. "Egocentric interpretations of fairness and interpersonal conflict," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 176-197, March.
    23. Robert Baron & Hao Zhao & Qing Miao, 2015. "Personal Motives, Moral Disengagement, and Unethical Decisions by Entrepreneurs: Cognitive Mechanisms on the “Slippery Slope”," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 107-118, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Specific rules; General rules; Incentives; Personal gain; Unethical behavior; Moral rationalizations;

    JEL classification:

    • K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:76:y:2020:i:c:s0167487018306482. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Haili He). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.