In four studies, we evaluated how corporate misconduct relates to language patterns, perceptions of immorality, and unethical behavior. First, we analyzed nearly 190 codes of conduct from S&P 500 manufacturing companies and observed that corporations with ethics infractions had more linguistically obfuscated codes than corporations without ethics infractions. Next, we tested perceptions of a company based on values statements modified by obfuscation (Study 2). Participants perceived low-obfuscation companies as more moral, warmer, and more trustworthy than high-obfuscation companies. Finally, behavioral experiments (Studies 3a and 3b) revealed that group members cheat more after reading a high-obfuscation values statement than a low-obfuscation values statement. The results provide evidence of a potentially troublesome cycle: corporate unethicality has linguistic traces, can affect how people appraise a company, and can change ethical behavior.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||20|
|Journal||Journal of Language and Social Psychology|
|State||Published - Mar 2021|
- corporate unethicality
- deception spiral
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Language and Linguistics
- Sociology and Political Science
- Linguistics and Language
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The Deception Spiral: Corporate Obfuscation Leads to Perceptions of Immorality and Cheating Behavior
Markowitz, D. M. (Creator), Kouchaki, M. (Creator), Hancock, J. T. (Creator) & Gino, F. (Creator), SAGE Journals, 2020
DOI: 10.25384/sage.c.5096093.v1, https://sage.figshare.com/collections/The_Deception_Spiral_Corporate_Obfuscation_Leads_to_Perceptions_of_Immorality_and_Cheating_Behavior/5096093/1