Thick as Thieves? Dishonest Behavior and Egocentric Social Networks
Posted: 12 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 10, 2015
People experience a threat to their moral self-concept in the face of discrepancies between their moral values and their unethical behavior. We theorize that people’s need to restore their view of themselves as moral activates thoughts of a high-density personal social network. Such thoughts also lead people to be more likely to engage in further unethical behavior. In five experiments, participants reflected on their past unethical behavior, and then completed a task designed to measure network density. Those who cheated more frequently in the past, recalled their negative moral identity, or decided to lie were more likely to activate a high-density network (Experiment 1-3). Using a mediation-by-moderation approach (Experiment 4), we confirm that this link between dishonesty and network density is explained by a threat to positive self-concept. Importantly, activating a dense network after engaging in dishonest behavior allows further dishonest behavior in a subsequent task (Experiment 5).
Keywords: social network structure; network density; dishonesty; ethics; self-affirmation
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