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The victim matters: Experimental evidence on lying, moral costs and moral cleansing

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  • Meub, Lukas
  • Proeger, Till
  • Schneider, Tim
  • Bizer, Kilian

Abstract

In an experiment on moral cleansing with an endogenously manipulated moral self-image, we examine the relevance of the addressee of an immoral action. The treatments differ such that cheating on a die roll reduces either the experimenter´s or another subject´s payoff. We find that cheating is highest and moral cleansing lowest when subjects cheat at the expense of the experimenter, while cheating is lowest and moral cleansing highest once cheating harms another subject. A subsequent measurement of subjects´ moral self-image supports our interpretation that the occurrence of moral cleansing crucially depends on the moral costs resulting from immoral actions directed at individuals in different roles. Our results can help to explain the different propensity to cheat and conduct moral cleansing when immoral actions harm either another person or the representatives of an organization.

Suggested Citation

  • Meub, Lukas & Proeger, Till & Schneider, Tim & Bizer, Kilian, 2015. "The victim matters: Experimental evidence on lying, moral costs and moral cleansing," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 233, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cegedp:233
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sanjiv Erat & Uri Gneezy, 2012. "White Lies," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(4), pages 723-733, April.
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    3. Battigalli, Pierpaolo & Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2013. "Deception: The role of guilt," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 227-232.
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    5. Gino, Francesca & Ayal, Shahar & Ariely, Dan, 2013. "Self-serving altruism? The lure of unethical actions that benefit others," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 285-292.
    6. Fosgaard, Toke Reinholt & Hansen, Lars Gaarn & Piovesan, Marco, 2013. "Separating Will from Grace: An experiment on conformity and awareness in cheating," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 279-284.
    7. Daniel J. Benjamin & James J. Choi & A. Joshua Strickland, 2010. "Social Identity and Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1913-1928, September.
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    12. Yan Chen & Sherry Xin Li, 2009. "Group Identity and Social Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 431-457, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Johannes Abeler & Daniele Nosenzo & Collin Raymond, 2019. "Preferences for Truth‐Telling," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 87(4), pages 1115-1153, July.
    2. Ellen Garbarino & Robert Slonim & Marie Claire Villeval, 2016. "Loss Aversion and lying behavior: Theory, estimation and empirical evidence," Working Papers halshs-01404333, HAL.
    3. Johannes Abeler & Daniele Nosenzo & Collin Raymond, 2016. "Preferences for Truth-Telling," CESifo Working Paper Series 6087, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    dictator game; laboratory experiment; lying; moral balancing; moral; cleansing; self-image;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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