When Psychological Closeness Creates Distance from One’s Moral Compass

31 Pages Posted: 21 May 2010

See all articles by Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Adam D. Galinsky

Columbia Business School - Management


Psychological closeness, even when born out of subtle similarities with another person, has been found to lead to beneficial outcomes, such as increased cooperation and helping. In the present investigation, we examined the potential dark side of psychological closeness. In five studies employing various manipulations of psychological closeness, we found that feeling connected to another individual who engaged in selfish or dishonest behavior led people to vicariously justify the actions of the wrongdoer and to behave less ethically. When a person feels psychologically close to someone who has behaved dishonestly, she is more likely than she would otherwise to consider such dishonesty to be legitimate and not embarrassing, and thus she is also more likely to vicariously act unethically. However, when parties are in the presence of out-group observers, this pattern of results reverses. These findings suggest an irony of psychological closeness: it can create distance from one’s own moral compass.

Suggested Citation

Gino, Francesca and Galinsky, Adam D., When Psychological Closeness Creates Distance from One’s Moral Compass. IACM 23rd Annual Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1612528 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1612528

Francesca Gino (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

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

Adam D. Galinsky

Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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