Short Horizons and Tempting Situations: Lack of Continuity to Our Future Selves Leads to Unethical Decision Making and Behavior

59 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2014 Last revised: 12 Jul 2014

See all articles by Hal Hershfield

Hal Hershfield

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Marketing Area

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Leigh Thompson

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

People who feel continuity with their future selves are more likely to behave in ethically responsible ways as compared to people who lack continuity with their future selves. We find that individual differences in perceived similarity to one’s future self predicts tolerance of unethical business decisions (Studies 1a and 1b), and that the consideration of future consequences mediates the extent to which people regard inappropriate negotiation strategies as unethical (Study 2). We reveal that low future self-continuity predicts unethical behavior in the form of lies, false promises, and cheating (Studies 3 and 4), and that these relationships hold when controlling for general personality dimensions and trait levels of self-control (Study 4). Finally, we establish a causal relationship between future self-continuity and ethical judgments by showing that when people are prompted to focus on their future self (as opposed to the future), they express more disapproval of unethical behavior (Study 5).

Keywords: Future, self-continuity, Unethical decision making, Intertemporal choice, Unethical behavior, Ethical decision making

Suggested Citation

Hershfield, Hal and Cohen, Taya R. and Thompson, Leigh, Short Horizons and Tempting Situations: Lack of Continuity to Our Future Selves Leads to Unethical Decision Making and Behavior (2012). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 117, 298-310, 2012, DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.11.002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2458592

Hal Hershfield (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Marketing Area ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
4122686677 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.tepper.cmu.edu/our-faculty-and-research/about-our-faculty/faculty-profiles/tcohen/cohen-t

Leigh Thompson

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Donald P. Jacobs Center
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-467-3505 (Phone)
847-491-8896 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.LeighThompson.com

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