Cheating to get ahead or to avoid falling behind? The effect of potential negative versus positive status change on unethical behavior

Nathan C. Pettit*, Sarah P. Doyle, Robert B. Lount, Christopher To

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

This research examines how being faced with a potential negative versus positive status change influences peoples’ willingness to ethically transgress to avoid or achieve these respective outcomes. Across four studies people were consistently more likely to cheat to prevent a negative status change than to realize a positive change. We argue that what accounts for these results is the enhanced value placed on retaining one's status in the face of a potential negative change. Taken together, these findings offer a dynamic perspective to the study of status and ethics and contribute to knowledge of the situational factors that promote unethical behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-183
Number of pages12
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Volume137
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cheating
  • Social hierarchy
  • Status
  • Status change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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