The Dishonesty of Honest People (Paper Summary)

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Dishonesty of Honest People: A theory of Self-Concept maintenance. Main idea

People think of themselves as honest.
Yes, in reality dishonesty pays quite generously (give examples) The paper demonstrates that their convenience people become dishonest enough to profit but also behave honestly enough to maintain their self-concept.

Why are People Dishonest?

Origins of theory date from Adam Smith/Thomas Hobbes using Homo Economicus as a base reference. Aka “Rational Man” who acts consciously and deliberately to trade off benefits and costs of dishonest acts.

Within a dishonest act there is normally a balance of tradeoffs: 1. the amount that is to be gained 2. Likelihood of getting caught 3. Magnitude of punishment People base their decision to be dishonest based on these trade-offs. ( Financial Perspective) This external cost-benefit framework lends to 3 hypotheses affecting amount of dishonest actions: 1. Higher magnitude of external rewards 2. Low probability of getting caught 3.Lower magnitude of punishment

They propose that one main way in which the internal reward system exerts control over behavior is influenced by ones self-concept
(Psychological perspective) Decision to be honest or not based on internal rewards (based on norms and values in society.
Compliance with such norms provides internal positive rewards, non –compliance leads to negative internal rewards punishments)
If a person fails to comply with to comply with internal standards of honesty, self-concept will be negatively updated
If person complies with internal standards of honesty, positive self-concept will be updated They suggest in their work that people overcome this dilemma “self-concept” dilemma by finding a balance between the 2 motivating forces. Hence they propose a magnitudinal range of dishonesty within which people can cheat but still maintain their positive self-concept This achieved by: 1. Categorization Malleability & 2. Attention to one’s moral standards. Categorization Malleability depends on stimuli and actions(focuses on the outside world) Attention to standards relies on internal awareness(focuses on the inside world) Theory of self-concept maintenance (considers both internal and external reward systems): -Ext&Int: H1: Dishonesty increases as attention to standards for honesty decreases -Ext&Int-H2: Dishonesty increases as categorization malleability increases -Ext&Int-H3: Given the opportunity to be dishonest, individuals will be dishonest up to a certain level that does not force them to update their self-concept.

Comment [MS1]: Behavioral
economists have proved that humans are
not rational beings. So this assumption
might be argues to have a weak base to
begin with.

Comment [MS2]: Bankers?....anyone??

Experiment 1: tested prediction that increasing people’s attention to standards would reduce levels of dishonesty. This was done by contrasting the magnitude of dishonesty between 2 conditions. (Where participants were reminded of their own standards and where they were not).

Control group1 (Ten Commandments) No possibility to cheat: Type of reminder had no effect Control group2 (book list) No possibility: Type of reminder had no effect Recycle group1 (Ten Commandments) Possibility to cheat: Hardly cheated at all (undistinguishable from the control conditions)

Recycle group2 (booklist) Possibility to cheat: Cheated, but not to the maximum level 6.7% of possible magnitude.
Their suggestion: the fact that recycle group 2 did not cheat to the max also means that categorization mechanisms might also have been at work.

Experiment 2: Extended experiment 2 by 1. Manipulation of attention to standards by commitment reminders (via signed agreement) 2. Manipulation of financial incentives for performance(external benefits) ( testing H1: Higher external rewards increases magnitude of dishonest acts) (50cents vs 2 dollars)

Comment [MS3]:...
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