Leveling the Playing Field: Dishonesty in the Face of Threat

31 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2011

Date Written: June 1, 2011


We examined the effects of framing and perceived vulnerability on dishonest behavior in competitive environments. Participants were randomly matched into pairs and took a short multiple-choice test, the relative score of which determined their merit-based payoffs. After learning about the test scores, participants were asked to report them, thus affecting the final payoffs. Framing was varied as participants could either report their own scores or the scores of their counterparts. The presence of threat, or vulnerability to other players’ dishonesty, was varied as either one or both players in a pair could misreport scores. Participants who reported their counterparts’ scores were more likely to report honestly, compared to those who entered their own score. Participants, whose payoffs were threatened by cheating score reports were more likely to misreport to the fullest extent possible. Furthermore, we found that framing significantly reduced misreporting in the absence, but not in the presence of threat. Results suggest that actors may use their vulnerability to others’ dishonesty as a justification for cheating, even when they strongly disapprove of the behavior.

Keywords: Dishonesty, Cheating, Ethical Decision Making, Behavioral Ethics, Framing

JEL Classification: D70, D80

Suggested Citation

Atanasov, Pavel D. and Dana, Jason D., Leveling the Playing Field: Dishonesty in the Face of Threat (June 1, 2011). Journal of Economic Psychology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1921019

Pavel D. Atanasov (Contact Author)

Pytho LLC ( email )

866 President Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
United States
7173335045 (Phone)
11215 (Fax)

Jason D. Dana

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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