The whistleblower's dilemma and the fairness-loyalty tradeoff

Adam Waytz*, James Dungan, Liane Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

76 Scopus citations

Abstract

Whistleblowing - reporting another person's unethical behavior to a third party - often constitutes a conflict between competing moral concerns. Whistleblowing promotes justice and fairness but can also appear disloyal. Five studies demonstrate that a fairness-loyalty tradeoff predicts people's willingness to blow the whistle. Study 1 demonstrates that individual differences in valuing fairness over loyalty predict willingness to report unethical behavior. Studies 2a and 2b demonstrate that experimentally manipulating endorsement of fairness versus loyalty increases willingness to report unethical behavior. Study 3 demonstrates that people recall their decisions to report unethical behavior as driven by valuation of fairness, whereas people recall decisions not to report unethical behavior as driven by valuation of loyalty. Study 4 demonstrates that experimentally manipulating the endorsement of fairness versus loyalty increases whistleblowing in an online marketplace. These findings reveal the psychological determinants of whistleblowing and shed light on factors that encourage or discourage this practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1027-1033
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume49
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013

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Keywords

  • Ethics
  • Fairness
  • Loyalty
  • Morality
  • Whistleblowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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