Drawing the line somewhere: An experimental study of moral compromise

Alan Lewis, Alexander Bardis, Chloe Flint, Claire Mason, Natalya Smith, Charlotte Tickle, Jennifer Zinser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 33 Citations

Abstract

In a study by Shalvi, Dana, Handgraaf, and De Dreu (2011) it was convincingly demonstrated that psychologically, the distinction between right and wrong is not discrete, rather it is a continuous distribution of relative ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’. Using the ‘die-under-the-cup’ paradigm participants over-reported high numbers on the roll of a die when there were financial incentives to do so and no chance of detection for lying. Participants generally did not maximise income, instead making moral compromises. In an adaptation of this procedure in a single die experiment 9% of participants lied that they had rolled a ‘6’ when they had not compared to 2.5% in the Shalvi et al. study suggesting that when the incentive is donation to charity this encourages more dishonesty than direct personal gain. In a follow-up questionnaire study where sequences of three rolls were presented, lying increased where counterfactuals became available as predicted by Shalvi et al. A novel finding is reported where ‘justified’ lying is more common when comparative gains are higher.

An investigation of individual differences revealed that economics students were much more likely to lie than psychology students. Relevance to research on tax evasion, corporate social responsibility and the ‘credit crunch’ is discussed.

LanguageEnglish
Pages718-725
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
StatusPublished - Aug 2012

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compromise
Motivation
Students
Charities
Taxes
Social Responsibility
incentive
Individuality
tax evasion
psychology student
Economics
social responsibility
donation
Psychology
credit
Research
paradigm
income
questionnaire
experiment

Cite this

Lewis, A., Bardis, A., Flint, C., Mason, C., Smith, N., Tickle, C., & Zinser, J. (2012). Drawing the line somewhere: An experimental study of moral compromise. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(4), 718-725. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2012.01.005

Drawing the line somewhere: An experimental study of moral compromise. / Lewis, Alan; Bardis, Alexander; Flint, Chloe; Mason, Claire; Smith, Natalya; Tickle, Charlotte; Zinser, Jennifer.

In: Journal of Economic Psychology, Vol. 33, No. 4, 08.2012, p. 718-725.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lewis, A, Bardis, A, Flint, C, Mason, C, Smith, N, Tickle, C & Zinser, J 2012, 'Drawing the line somewhere: An experimental study of moral compromise' Journal of Economic Psychology, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 718-725. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2012.01.005
Lewis, Alan ; Bardis, Alexander ; Flint, Chloe ; Mason, Claire ; Smith, Natalya ; Tickle, Charlotte ; Zinser, Jennifer. / Drawing the line somewhere: An experimental study of moral compromise. In: Journal of Economic Psychology. 2012 ; Vol. 33, No. 4. pp. 718-725.
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