Moral commitment: Does it reduce or enhance the response to social norms? Evidence from an experiment on earnings management
61 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2015 Last revised: 9 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 24, 2021
Social norms play a powerful role in guiding managerial behavior. For example, prior work has established the power of injunctive (prescriptive) norms in areas where views on what is right and wrong widely differ, such as earnings management (EM). Existing work highlights the effects of social norms on the average norm addressee. However, little is known about individual differences in reactions to injunctive norms. That is, who is more malleable, and who resists more? In this research, we conduct an experiment on EM to study such potential differences in individual responses to social norms. We find that participants with a strong commitment to honesty react less to both EM-disapproving and EM-approving injunctive norms. These findings have implications for the theoretical and empirical analysis of managerial behavior and for the use of injunctive social norms as steering tools for truthful reporting.
Keywords: Behavioral finance, corporate governance, earnings misrepresentation, honesty, laboratory experiments, social finance, social norm interventions
JEL Classification: G02, G30, C91, M14
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