Understanding Ordinary Unethical Behavior: Why People Who .

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Rapid #: -10114092CROSS REF ID:4639305LENDER:TXA :: Main LibraryBORROWER:HLS :: Widener LibraryTYPE:Article CC:CCGJOURNAL TITLE:Current Opinion in Behavioral SciencesUSER JOURNAL TITLE: Current Opinion in Behavioral SciencesARTICLE TITLE:Understanding ordinary unethical behavior: why people who value morality act immorallyARTICLE AUTHOR:Gino, N:2352-1546OCLC #:Processed by RapidX:1/15/2016 11:16:06 AMThis material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code)

Available online at www.sciencedirect.comScienceDirectUnderstanding ordinary unethical behavior: why peoplewho value morality act immorallyFrancesca GinoCheating, deception, organizational misconduct, and manyother forms of unethical behavior are among the greatestchallenges in today’s society. As regularly highlighted by themedia, extreme cases and costly scams are common. Yet,even more frequent and pervasive are cases of ‘ordinary’unethical behavior — unethical actions committed by peoplewho value and care about morality but behave unethically whenfaced with an opportunity to cheat. In this article, I review therecent literature in behavioral ethics and moral psychology onordinary unethical behavior.AddressHarvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations & Markets, BakerLibrary, Boston, MA 02163, United StatesCorresponding author: Gino, Francesca ([email protected])When considered cumulatively, ordinary unethical behavior causes considerable societal damage. For instance,employee theft causes U.S. companies to lose approximately 52 billion per year [4]. This empirical evidence isstriking in light of social–psychological research that, fordecades, has robustly shown that people typically valuehonesty, believe strongly in their own morality, and striveto maintain a positive self-image as moral individuals[5,6].The gap between individuals’ actual dishonest behaviorand their desire to maintain a positive moral self-imagehas captured the attention of scholars across fields. Inmanagement, work on this topic began with Brief [7] andTreviño [8]. Since the 1960s, scholars have studied thedeterminants of ethical and unethical behavior, beginningwith the assumption that even people who value moralitysometimes do bad things [9].Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 2015, 3:107–111This review comes from a themed issue on Social behaviorEdited by Molly J Crockett and Amy CuddyFor a complete overview see the Issue and the EditorialAvailable online 14th March 2352-1546/# 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Cheating, deception, organizational misconduct, andmany other forms of unethical behavior are among thegreatest challenges in today’s society. As regularlyhighlighted by the media, extreme cases and costly scams(e.g., Enron, Bernard Madoff) are common. Yet, evenmore frequent and pervasive are cases of ‘ordinary’ unethical behavior — unethical actions committed by people who value about morality but behave unethicallywhen faced with an opportunity to cheat. A growing bodyof research in behavioral ethics and moral psychologyshows that even good people (i.e., people who care aboutbeing moral) can and often do bad things [1,2 ].1 Examples include cheating on taxes, deceiving in interpersonalrelationships, overstating performance and contributionsto teamwork, inflating business expense reports, and lyingin negotiations.In both psychology and behavioral ethics, many scholarshave studied the factors that lead people astray in theethics domain. Two main streams of research can beidentified. The first stream of research consists in workthat examines predictable situational and social forcesthat lead individuals to behave unethically. This body ofresearch generally focuses on behaviors that people knowto be wrong, but that they engage in because they areunaware of the forces that are leading them to crossethical boundaries (intentional unethical behavior). Thesecond stream of research is about bounded ethicality,people’s tendency to engage in unethical action withouteven knowing that they are doing so (unintentional unethical behavior). Figure 1 summarizes the main steps involved in ethical decision making and shows at what pointin the process intentional and unintentional unethicalbehaviors can occur.Though different in many ways, these streams of behavioral ethics research share two empirically supportedassumptions [1]. The first one is that morality is dynamicand malleable [10 ], rather than being a stable trait thatcharacterizes individuals. That is, individuals do notbehave consistently across different situations, evenwhen they strongly value morality or when they see beingan ethical person as central to their self-concept. Thesecond assumption is that most of the unethical behaviorwe observe in society is the result of the actions of1A commonly-accepted definition of unethical behavior is the following: acts that have harmful effects on others and are ‘either illegal or morallyunacceptable to the larger community’ ([3 ]: 367]). Importantly, throughout this paper, I use the terms (un)ethical and (im)moral interchangeably.www.sciencedirect.comCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 2015, 3:107–111

108 Social behaviorFigure 1Ethical AwarenessEthical JudgmentEthical BehaviorEthical awareness means beingable to recognize that a situationor issue is one that raises ethicalconcerns and must be thoughtabout in ethical terms.Ethical judgment is a uniqueform of decision making thatinvolves making a decisionabout what is the right thingto do.As human beings, we are allprone to cognitive biasesthat affect our thinking andinterfere with ethicalbehavior.What Research Tells UsParts of the brain that areassociated with recognizing theethical nature of an issue aredifferent from those involved inother kinds of thinking.What Research Tells UsCertain parts of the brain areactivated more as people aremaking ethical judgments thanwhen they are making other typesof judgments.What Research Tells UsSocial and situationalpressures can lead peoplewho value morality tobehave unethically.Unintentional unethical behavioroccurs when people engage in unethicalaction beyond their own awarenessIn many situations, unbiasedthinking and good intentionsare insufficient for assuringethical behavior.Intentional unethical behavior occurs whenpeople engage in actions they know to be wrong,but are unaware of the biases and forces affectingtheir judgmentsCurrent Opinion in Behavioral SciencesThe steps involved in ethical decision making [40].numerous individuals who, although they value moralityand want to be seen as ethical people, regularly fail toresist the temptation to act dishonestly or even fail torecognize that there is a moral issue at stake in thedecision they are making.Intentional dishonesty: ethicality ispredictableStudies on intentional unethical behavior have identifieda series of situational and social forces that lead people tobehave unethically. The first few demonstrations of thisphenomenon come from well-known experiments byMilgram and Zimbardo. For instance, in Milgram’s famous experiment [11 ], an experimental assistant (anaccomplice) asked each study participant to play the roleof a teacher and administer ‘electric shocks’ to anotherparticipant, ‘the learner’ (who, in actuality, was a confederate or experimental assistant), each time the learnermade a mistake on a word-learning exercise. After eachmistake, the participant was asked to administer a shockof higher voltage, which began to result in apparentaudibly increasing distress from the learner. Over 60 percent of the study participants ‘shocked’ their participantthrough to the highest voltage level, which they could seewas marked clearly as potentially dangerous [11 ]. However, only a few people predicted they would behave inCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 2015, 3:107–111this way when asked to imagine the situation and predicttheir actions. These results demonstrate that the situationin which an authority demands obedience rather than aperson’s character causes one to harm an innocent person.The Stanford Prison Experiment Zimbardo conductedwas equally shocking in the results it produced [12 ].Stanford undergraduate students were randomly assignedto be either guards or prisoners in a mock prison settingfor a two-week experiment. After less than a week, theexperiment was stopped abruptly because the ‘guards’were engaging in sadism and brutality, and the ‘prisoners’were suffering from depression and extreme stress. Normal Stanford students who participated in it had beentransformed due to the situation they had been put in(serving as guards in a prison).Building on this early work, research has examined whatpeople do when they are placed in situations in whichthey have the opportunity to behave unethically — forinstance, by lying about their performance on a task[13 ]. Mazar et al. [13 ] propose that people balancetwo competing motivations when deciding whether to actunethically: the desire to gain some sort of personalreward (e.g., a larger monetary payoff), and the desireto maintain a positive self-concept. Using tasks wherepeople can lie by inflating their performance for greaterwww.sciencedirect.com

Understanding ordinary unethical behavior Gino 109pay, their studies find that people lie when it pays, butonly to the extent that they can do so without violatingtheir perception of themselves as an honest person. Thisresearch advanced an important new perspective and hasspawned significant follow-up research. Some of thefollow-up work slightly reframed the conflict peopleexperience when facing the choice of whether or not tocheat by introducing an intertemporal component. Specifically, the tradeoff is between the long-term desire tobe a good, ethical person and be seen as such by others togain social acceptance, and a more short-term desire tobehave in a way that would advance one’s self-interest[14 ,15]. As people try to balance these two desires, theyare often inconsistent in their moral behavior across timeas well as in their judgments of moral actions committedby the self versus others [10 ,16,17].Since the publication of Mazar and colleagues’ work,research has investigated the situational and social forcesthat lead people to behave unethically. One of mainfindings of this body of work is that the more room asituation provides for people to be able to justify theirbehavior, the more likely they are to behave unethically[18,19,20 ]. People seem to stretch the truth [19], to thepoint that still allows them to rationalize their behavior[18,20 ,21]. In one clever demonstration, participantswere asked to roll a die anonymously and then reportthe outcome of the roll, knowing that they would gainmoney according to their reports [20 ]. Participants whowere instructed to roll multiple times but report theoutcome of the first roll only lied more than those whowere instructed to roll the die only once. Likely, whenparticipants rolled multiple times, they obtained highnumbers on the non-relevant for pay rolls (second roll,third roll) but felt justified to use them.In addition to providing more or less room for justifyingone’s own unethical actions, the environment in whichpeople operate activates explicit or implicit norms. Theamount of litter in an environment, for instance, has beenfound to activate norms prescribing appropriate or inappropriate littering behavior in a given setting and, as aresult, regulate littering behavior [22]. Related researchhas found that the presence of graffiti leads not only tomore littering but also to more theft [23], abundance ofresources leads to increased unethical behavior [24], anddarkness in a room increases dishonesty [25]. Takentogether, these studies suggest that the physical featuresof an environment or the implied presence of otherpeople can produce profound changes in behavior surrounding ethical and social norms.In addition to situational factors, social forces have beenidentified as antecedents to unethical behavior. In fact, aperson’s moral behavior can be affected by the moralactions of just one other person. Gino et al. [26] found thatwhen an in-group member behaves unethically and thewww.sciencedirect.combehavior is visible to others, people follow suit: theybehave unethically themselves. Others’ behavior caninfluence our own even when the bond we share is quitelabile or subtle. For instance, sharing the same birthday ofa person who cheated leads us to cheat as well [27]. This isbecause people perceive questionable behaviors exhibited by in-group members or people similar to them to bemore acceptable than those exhibited by out-group members or people they view as dissimilar. Importantly, thesame social forces can be used to encourage ethicalbehavior. For instance, in one study, hotel guests wholearned that other guests staying in the same hotel orroom re-used their towels on their first night of stay weremore likely to follow the same environmentally-responsible behavior [28].Together, this body of work highlights the inconsistencies between people’s desire to be moral and their actualunethical behavior, and provides compelling evidence forthe argument that morality is malleable.Unintentional dishonesty: ethicality isboundedEthical decision making is often defined to include intentional deliberation. As the first step in Rest’s [29 ]model of moral development, moral awareness is assumedto exist for an ethical problem to exist (see Figure 1). But,the assumption that people are making explicit tradeoffsbetween behaving ethically and behaving in their selfinterest is not always supported, even when unethicalbehavior clearly has occurred [30].In fact, many studies have found that people act unethically without their own awareness and fail to notice theunethical behavior around them [31,32 ,33]. That is,people are boundedly ethical: they act in ways that theywould condemn and cons