Article | Journal of Personality and Social Psychology | June 2012

Sweeping Dishonesty under the Rug: How Unethical Actions Lead to Forgetting of Moral Rules

by Lisa L. Shu and Francesca Gino

Abstract

Dishonest behavior can have various psychological outcomes. We examine whether one consequence could be the forgetting of moral rules. In four experiments, participants were given the opportunity to behave dishonestly, and thus earn undeserved money, by over-reporting their performance on an ability-based task. Before the task, they were exposed to moral rules (i.e., an honor code). Those who cheated were more likely to forget the moral rules after behaving dishonestly, even though they were equally likely to remember morally irrelevant information (Experiment 1). Furthermore, people showed moral forgetting only after cheating could be enacted but not before cheating (Experiment 2), despite monetary incentives to recall the rules accurately (Experiment 3). Finally, moral forgetting appears to result from decreased access to moral rules after cheating (Experiment 4).

Keywords: dishonesty; ethics; moral codes; moral forgetting; Unethical Behavior; Behavior; Ethics; Research;

Citation:

Shu, Lisa L., and Francesca Gino. "Sweeping Dishonesty under the Rug: How Unethical Actions Lead to Forgetting of Moral Rules." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 102, no. 6 (June 2012): 1164–1177.