No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Kenan-Flagler Business School
Don A. Moore
University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business; Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business
Max H. Bazerman
Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit
April 8, 2009
Harvard Business School NOM Working Paper No. 08-080
We present six studies demonstrating that outcome information biases ethical judgments of others' ethically-questionable behaviors. In particular, we show that the same behaviors produce more ethical condemnation when they happen to produce bad rather than good outcomes, even if the outcomes are determined by chance. Our studies show that individuals judge behaviors as less ethical, more blameworthy, and punish them more harshly, when such behaviors led to undesirable consequences, even if they saw those behaviors as acceptable before they knew its consequences. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that a rational, analytic mindset can override the effects of one's intuitions in ethical judgments. Implications for both research and practice are discussed.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 52
Keywords: outcome bias, unethical behavior, judgment, ethical decision makingworking papers series
Date posted: March 3, 2008 ; Last revised: August 5, 2009
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