People most likely to cheat when ethical boundaries are blurred

Washington: A new study has revealed that ambiguous situations make it easier for people to justify their ethical transgressions.

New research suggested that situational ambiguity was one avenue for justification that helps people preserve their sparkling self-image.

Findings from two related experiments showed that people are apt to cheat on a task in favour of their self-interest but only when the situation was ambiguous enough to provide moral cover.

The research, conducted by psychological scientists Andrea Pittarello, Margarita Leib, Tom Gordon-Hecker, and Shaul Shalvi, at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel stated that whether in sensational corporate scandals or more ordinary transgressions, individuals often violate ethical principles to serve their self-interest and such ethical failures are mostly likely to occur in settings in which ethical boundaries are blurred.

The results also showed that ambiguity played an additional role in guiding behavior: Participants were more likely to report a tempting value from the second closest die when the target appeared relatively close to the middle than when it was clearly closer to the first die. As predicted, this effect did not emerge when participants were paid according to their accuracy.

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