Sequential Influences on Dishonest Behavior

Nina Mazar, University of Toronto, Canada
Dan Ariely, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, USA
People’s escalation of behavior has been studied in several domains, particularly in addiction. We extend that research to the domain of ethical decision making. In three studies we find that sequential temptations to be dishonest increase such behaviors to a point where they cross a threshold, tip, and result in continuous dishonesty. If given a choice, however, people strategically avoid future temptations, even if costly. In addition, positive reinforcers proved effective in helping people to reduce dishonesty, while confessions made matters worse.
[ to cite ]:
Nina Mazar and Dan Ariely (2010) ,"Sequential Influences on Dishonest Behavior", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, eds. Margaret C. Campbell, Jeff Inman, and Rik Pieters, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 143-145 .