Finding Balance on the Moral Scale: the Effect of Forgiveness on Dishonest Behavior

Shahar Ayal, Duke University, USA
Dan Ariely, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, USA
Consumers face ethical choices on a daily basis. In some cases, they know that if they succumb to dishonest behavior, forgiveness may be available to them. Do the expectation of being forgiven and forgiveness itself influence an individual’s likelihood to engage in unethical behavior? This paper addresses this question by examining the effects of confession on individuals’ dishonest behavior. Across three studies, we find that when individuals expect to be forgiven for their unethical acts, they are more likely to behave dishonestly before rather than right after a confession. However, the positive effect of confession was short and diminished with time.
[ to cite ]:
Shahar Ayal and Dan Ariely (2010) ,"Finding Balance on the Moral Scale: the Effect of Forgiveness 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: 211-214 .