No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments

52 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2008 Last revised: 5 Aug 2009

See all articles by Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Harvard Business School

Don A. Moore

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Max H. Bazerman

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit

Date Written: April 8, 2009

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Gino, Francesca and Moore, Don A. and Bazerman, Max H., No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments (April 8, 2009). Harvard Business School NOM Working Paper No. 08-080. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1099464 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1099464

Francesca Gino

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Don A. Moore

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Max H. Bazerman (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6429 (Phone)
617-496-4191 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.people.hbs.edu/mbazerman

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