Money, moral transgressions, and blame
Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24 (3), 299-306
28 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013 Last revised: 26 Jun 2014
Date Written: 2014
Two experiments tested participants’ attributions for others’ immoral behaviors when conducted for more versus less money. We hypothesized and found that observers would blame wrongdoers more when seeing a transgression enacted for little rather than a lot of money, and that this would be evident in observers’ hand-washing behavior. Experiment 1 used a cognitive dissonance paradigm. Participants (N = 160) observed a confederate lie in exchange for either a relatively large or small monetary payment. Participants blamed the liar more in the small (versus large) money condition. Participants (N = 184) in Experiment 2 saw images of someone knocking over another to obtain a small, medium, or large monetary sum. In the small (versus large) money condition, participants blamed the perpetrator (money) more. Hence, participants assigned less blame to moral wrong-doers, if the latter enacted their deed to obtain relatively large sums of money. Small amounts of money accentuate the immorality of others’ transgressions.
Keywords: money, morality, cognitive dissonance, attribution, blame, contagion
JEL Classification: C9
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation