Thursday, August 30, 2012
ARE YOUR ETHICS SLIPPING?
The Mendacious Middle
People tend to let their ethical guard—and their standards—down during the middle of a series of events, a new study suggests.
In one experiment, 100 students proofread, one after the other, 10 different prose passages. Before each of the 10 sessions, they determined by flipping a coin whether they'd get a long passage, featuring multiple errors, or a short one, with just a couple of mistakes.
Coin-flipping was unsupervised, but the researchers afterward analyzed the pattern of results for signs of cheating. In the middle sessions, but not the early or late ones, students got the "short" result an improbably high number of times—strong evidence the students lied to save themselves work.
"The End Justifies the Means, but Only in the Middle," Maferima Touré and Ayelet Fishbach, Journal of Experimental Psychology (August)