The Abundance Effect: Unethical Behavior in the Presence of Wealth
54 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2008 Last revised: 21 Aug 2008
Date Written: August 20, 2008
Three laboratory studies investigate the hypothesis that the presence of wealth may influence people's propensity to engage in unethical behavior. In the experiments, participants are given the opportunity to cheat by overstating their performance or by stealing money. In each study, one group is stimulated by the visible proximity of wealth. We find that the presence of abundant wealth leads to more frequent cheating than an environment of scarcity. Our third experiment also investigates the potential mechanisms behind this effect. Our results show that feelings of envy towards wealthy others lead to unethical behavior. Our findings offer insights into when and why people engage in unethical behavior.
Keywords: unethical behavior, envy, money, wealth, stealing
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