Choice Architecture in Conflicts of Interest: Defaults as Physical and Psychological Barriers to (Dis)Honesty

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming

26 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2015 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015

See all articles by Nina Mazar

Nina Mazar

Boston University - Questrom School of Business

Scott Hawkins

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Date Written: April 11, 2015

Abstract

Default options significantly influence individuals’ tendencies to comply with public policy goals such as organ donation. We extend that notion and explore the role defaults can play in encouraging (im)moral conduct in two studies. Building on previous research into omission and commission we show that individuals cheat most when it requires passively accepting a default, incorrect answer (Omission). More importantly, despite equivalent physical effort, individuals cheat less when it requires overriding a default, correct answer (Super-Commission) than when simply giving an incorrect answer (Commission) – because the former is psychologically harder. Furthermore, while people expect physical and psychological costs to influence cheating, they do not believe that it takes a fundamentally different moral character to overcome either cost. Our findings support a more nuanced perspective on the implication of the different types of costs associated with default options and offer practical insights for policy, such as taxation, to nudge honesty.

Keywords: morality, lying, compliance, moral disengagement, self-deception, self-signaling

Suggested Citation

Mazar, Nina and Hawkins, Scott, Choice Architecture in Conflicts of Interest: Defaults as Physical and Psychological Barriers to (Dis)Honesty (April 11, 2015). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2593355

Nina Mazar (Contact Author)

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02215
United States

Scott Hawkins

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

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