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
Date Written: August 27, 2012
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
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