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Peer Behavior Profoundly Influences Dishonesty: Will Individuals Seek-out Information about Peers’ Dishonesty?

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  • Leib, Margarita
  • Schweitzer, Maurice

Abstract

Seeing others engage in unethical behavior helps individuals justify their own unethical actions. In this article, we explore whether and how individuals search for information about others’ unethical behavior. Across two financially incentivized studies (total N = 617), participants could search either free (in Study 1) or costly (in Study 2) information about others’ behavior. Our findings reveal that individuals are both curious and are significantly influenced by the information they observe. However, individuals do not aggressively seek information about others’ unethical behavior, and are very sensitive to the costs to obtain this information. Free information promotes information search, which increases the likelihood that individuals will observe others’ unethical behavior and ultimately engage in unethical behavior themselves. When information is costly, individuals are far less likely to search for information, and are subsequently less likely to observe and engage in unethical behavior themselves. In contrast to prior work that has asserted that “sunlight” and greater access to information will curb dishonesty, we find that free access to information about others’ transgression may promote, rather than deter, unethical behavior. To curb unethical behavior, however, organizations may not have to shield individuals from learning about others’ transgressions; they may merely need to make this information difficult to obtain.

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  • Leib, Margarita & Schweitzer, Maurice, 2020. "Peer Behavior Profoundly Influences Dishonesty: Will Individuals Seek-out Information about Peers’ Dishonesty?," OSF Preprints 3pwcg, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:osfxxx:3pwcg
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/3pwcg
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    Cited by:

    1. Charroin, Liza & Fortin, Bernard & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2022. "Peer effects, self-selection and dishonesty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 200(C), pages 618-637.
    2. Liza Charroin & Bernard Fortin & Marie Claire Villeval, 2022. "Peer effects, self-selection and dishonesty," Post-Print hal-03712450, HAL.

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