Money, moral transgressions, and blame

Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24 (3), 299-306

28 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013 Last revised: 26 Jun 2014

See all articles by Wenwen Xie

Wenwen Xie

Sun Yat-sen University

Boya Yu

Sun Yat-sen University

Xinyue Zhou

Sun Yat-sen University

Constantine Sedikides

University of Southampton - Center for Research on Self and Identity (CRSI)

Kathleen Vohs

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

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

Xie, Wenwen and Yu, Boya and Zhou, Xinyue and Sedikides, Constantine and Vohs, Kathleen, Money, moral transgressions, and blame (2014). Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24 (3), 299-306. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2365770

Wenwen Xie

Sun Yat-sen University ( email )

135, Xingang Xi Road
Guangzhou, Guang Dong 510275
China

Boya Yu

Sun Yat-sen University ( email )

135, Xingang Xi Road
Guangzhou, Guang Dong 510275
China

Xinyue Zhou (Contact Author)

Sun Yat-sen University ( email )

135, Xingang Xi Road
Guangzhou, Guang Dong 510275
China

Constantine Sedikides

University of Southampton - Center for Research on Self and Identity (CRSI) ( email )

Shackleton Building (B44)
Highfield Campus
Southampton, SO17 1BJ
United Kingdom

Kathleen Vohs

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Suite 3-150
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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