Monday, June 11, 2018

What, if any, the hidden costs of overcoming the temptation to cheat are? As stakes rise, participants resist the temptation to cheat but they are giving less to charity. Donors who indicated that they felt more moral gave less in high stakes condition

High stakes: A little more cheating, a lot less charity. Zoe Rahwan et al. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2018.04.021

Highlights
•    We explore what, if any, the hidden costs of overcoming the temptation to cheat are.
•    As stakes rise, participants resist the temptation to cheat but they are giving less to charity.
•    Donors who indicated that they felt more moral gave less in high stakes condition.
•    Participants who cheated the most were most likely to report feeling less moral at a one-day follow-up, but they thought they were less prone to feeling immoral if they cheated.

Abstract: We explore the downstream consequences of cheating–and resisting the temptation to cheat–at high stakes on pro-social behaviour and self-perceptions. In a large online sample, we replicate the seminal finding that cheating rates are largely insensitive to stake size, even at a 500-fold increase. We present two new findings. First, resisting the temptation to cheat at high stakes led to negative moral spill-over, triggering a moral license: participants who resisted cheating in the high stakes condition subsequently donated a smaller fraction of their earnings to charity. Second, participants who cheated maximally mispredicted their perceived morality: although such participants thought they were less prone to feeling immoral if they cheated, they ended up feeling more immoral a day after the cheating task than immediately afterwards. We discuss the theoretical implications of our findings on moral balancing and self-deception, and the practical relevance for organisational design.

Keywords: Cheating; Incentives; Moral licensing; Moral self-perceptions; Pro-social behaviour

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