Financial Deprivation Selectively Shifts Moral Standards and Compromises Moral Decisions
57 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 10, 2013
Previous research suggests people firmly value moral standards. However, research has also shown that various factors can compromise moral behavior. Inspired by the recent financial turmoil, we investigate whether financial deprivation might shift people’s moral standards and consequently compromise their moral decisions. Across one pilot survey and five experiments, we find that people believe financial deprivation should not excuse immoral conduct; yet when people actually experience deprivation they seem to apply their moral standards more leniently. Thus, people who feel deprived tend to cheat more for financial gains and judge deprived moral offenders who cheat for financial gains less harshly. These effects are mediated by shifts in people’s moral standards: beliefs in whether deprivation is an acceptable reason for immorality. The effect of deprivation on immoral conduct diminishes when it is explicit that immoral conduct cannot help alleviate imbalances in deprived actors’ financial states, when financial deprivation seems fair or deserved, and when acting immorally seems unfair.
Keywords: ethics, fairness, morality, dishonesty, cheating, lying, scarcity, judgment and decision making
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