No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments
52 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2008 Last revised: 5 Aug 2009
Date Written: April 8, 2009
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.
Keywords: outcome bias, unethical behavior, judgment, ethical decision making
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