posted at 04:51
Author: Businessweek
Study Shows How Ethical Lapses Start Small and Grow Over Time
Just one small ethical lapse can snowball into big trouble, according to a study released June 25. In one part of the study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers asked two groups to look at a series of screens, each with two dot-filled triangles, and estimate which had more dots. The sets changed over time so that early on, more dots appeared in the left triangle, and later in the series, more showed up on the right. Researchers paid participants based on their estimates, with a higher payout for choosing the left triangle than the right, giving them an incentive to overstate the number of dots on the left. People in the group that gradually saw the pattern change were more likely to keep over-counting the left-triangle dots, even when there were starkly more on the right. Conditions where incentives for little lies - just a couple of extra dots - slowly morphed into incentives for big ones - way too many dots - "More than doubled the rates of unethical behavior," write David Welsh of the University of Washington, Lisa Ordóñez of the University of Arizona, Deirdre Snyder of Providence College and Michael Christian of the North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Because of this rationalization process - what we call moral disengagement - people are more likely to slip into a pattern of behavior," Snyder says in a press release. "More ethical behavior may result over time when employees are encouraged to be vigilant in identifying financial mistakes rather than creative in attempting to find new financial loophole."

Posts Archive