Unable to resist temptation: How self-control depletion promotes unethical behavior

Unable to resist temptation: How self-control depletion promotes unethical behavior Across four experimental studies, individuals who were depleted of their self-regulatory resources by an initial act of self-control were more likely to “impulsively cheat” than individuals whose self-regulatory resources were intact. Our results demonstrate that individuals depleted of self-control resources were more likely to behave dishonestly (Study 1). Depletion reduced people’s moral awareness when they faced the opportunity to cheat, which, in turn, was responsible for heightened cheating (Study 2). Individuals high in moral identity, however, did not show elevated levels of cheating when they were depleted (Study 3), supporting our hypothesis that self-control depletion increases cheating when it robs people of the executive resources necessary to identify an act as immoral or unethical. Our results also show that resisting unethical behavior both requires and depletes self-control resources (Study 4). Taken together, our findings help to explain how otherwise ethical individuals predictably engage in unethical behavior. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes Elsevier

Unable to resist temptation: How self-control depletion promotes unethical behavior

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Publisher
Elsevier
Copyright
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
ISSN
0749-5978
D.O.I.
10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.03.001
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Across four experimental studies, individuals who were depleted of their self-regulatory resources by an initial act of self-control were more likely to “impulsively cheat” than individuals whose self-regulatory resources were intact. Our results demonstrate that individuals depleted of self-control resources were more likely to behave dishonestly (Study 1). Depletion reduced people’s moral awareness when they faced the opportunity to cheat, which, in turn, was responsible for heightened cheating (Study 2). Individuals high in moral identity, however, did not show elevated levels of cheating when they were depleted (Study 3), supporting our hypothesis that self-control depletion increases cheating when it robs people of the executive resources necessary to identify an act as immoral or unethical. Our results also show that resisting unethical behavior both requires and depletes self-control resources (Study 4). Taken together, our findings help to explain how otherwise ethical individuals predictably engage in unethical behavior.

Journal

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision ProcessesElsevier

Published: Jul 1, 2011

References

  • The abundance effect: Unethical behavior in the presence of wealth
    Gino, F.; Pierce, L.
  • The relationship of client-directed aggressive and nonclient-directed aggressive work behavior with self-control
    Latham, L.; Perlow, R.
  • Out of control: Visceral influences on behavior
    Loewenstein, G.
  • Self-control depletion and the general theory of crime
    Muraven, M.; Pogarsky, G.; Shmueli, D.
  • Longitudinal gains in self-regulation from regular physical exercise
    Oaten, M.; Cheng, K.
  • Fairness, feelings, and ethical decision making: Consequences of violating community standards of fairness
    Schweitzer, M.; Gibson, D.
  • The impact of cognitive expenditure on the ethical decision-making process: The cognitive elaboration model
    Street, M.D.; Douglas, S.C.; Geiger, S.W.; Martinko, M.J.
  • Ethical fading: The role of self-deception in unethical behavior
    Tenbrunsel, A.E.; Messick, D.M.

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