Financial deprivation selectively shifts moral standards and compromises moral decisions

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Previous research suggests people firmly value moral standards. However, research has also shown that various factors can compromise moral behavior. Inspired by the recent financial turmoil, we investigate whether financial deprivation might shift people's moral standards and consequently compromise their moral decisions. Across one pilot survey and five experiments, we find that people believe financial deprivation should not excuse immoral conduct; yet when people actually experience deprivation they seem to apply their moral standards more leniently. Thus, people who feel deprived tend to cheat more for financial gains and judge deprived moral offenders who cheat for financial gains less harshly. These effects are mediated by shifts in people's moral standards: beliefs in whether deprivation is an acceptable reason for immorality. The effect of deprivation on immoral conduct diminishes when it is explicit that immoral conduct cannot help alleviate imbalances in deprived actors' financial states, when financial deprivation seems fair or deserved, and when acting immorally seems unfair. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sharma, E; Mazar, N; Alter, AL; Ariely, D

Published Date

  • March 1, 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 123 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 90 - 100

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0749-5978

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.obhdp.2013.09.001

Citation Source

  • Scopus