Signing at the Beginning Makes Ethics Salient and Decreases Dishonest Self-Reports in Comparison to Signing at the End

Shu, Lisa L., Nina Mazar, Francesca Gino, Dan Ariely, and Max H. Bazerman (2012), Signing at the beginning makes ethics salient and decreases dishonest self-reports in comparison to signing at the end, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109 (38), 15197-15200.

Posted: 30 Aug 2012 Last revised: 28 May 2013

Lisa L. Shu

Harvard Business School; Harvard University - Department of Psychology; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Nina Mazar

University of Toronto - Joseph L. Rotman School of Management

Francesca Gino

Harvard Business School

Dan Ariely

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Max H. Bazerman

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit

Date Written: August 27, 2012

Abstract

Many written forms required by businesses and governments rely on honest reporting. Proof of honest intent is typically provided through signature at the end of, e.g., tax returns or insurance policy forms. Still, people sometimes cheat to advance their financial self-interests - at great costs to society. We test an easy-to-implement method to discourage dishonesty: signing at the beginning rather than at the end of a self-report, thereby reversing the order of the current practice. Using laboratory and field experiments, we find that signing before - rather than after - the opportunity to cheat makes ethics salient when they are needed most and significantly reduces dishonesty.

Former working paper titles: “Curtailing Fraud: One Signature at a Time” and “When to Sign on the Dotted Line? Signing First Makes Ethics Salient and Decreases Dishonest Self-Reports.”

Keywords: ethics, signature, honesty, cheating, morality, nudge, policy-making, fraud

Suggested Citation

Shu, Lisa L. and Mazar, Nina and Gino, Francesca and Ariely, Dan and Bazerman, Max H., Signing at the Beginning Makes Ethics Salient and Decreases Dishonest Self-Reports in Comparison to Signing at the End (August 27, 2012). Shu, Lisa L., Nina Mazar, Francesca Gino, Dan Ariely, and Max H. Bazerman (2012), Signing at the beginning makes ethics salient and decreases dishonest self-reports in comparison to signing at the end, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109 (38), 15197-15200.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2137848

Lisa L. Shu

Harvard Business School ( email )

Baker Library 444C
Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Harvard University - Department of Psychology ( email )

William James Hall 260
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nina Mazar (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Joseph L. Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6
Canada
+1 (416) 946-5650 (Phone)
+1 (416) 978-5433 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://ninamazar.com

Francesca Gino

Harvard Business School ( email )

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

Dan Ariely

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
(919) 381-4366 (Phone)

Max H. Bazerman

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

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
1,582