Article | Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization | September 2013

Self-serving Altruism? The Lure of Unethical Actions That Benefit Others

by F. Gino, S. Ayal and D. Ariely

Abstract

In three experiments, we propose and find that individuals cheat more when others can benefit from their cheating and when the number of beneficiaries of wrongdoing increases. Our results indicate that people use moral flexibility to justify their self-interested actions when such actions benefit others in addition to the self. Namely, our findings suggest that when people's dishonesty would benefit others, they are more likely to view dishonesty as morally acceptable and thus feel less guilty about benefiting from cheating. We discuss the implications of these results for collaborations in the social realm.

Keywords: ethics; Cheating; Morality; Moral Sensibility; Behavior; Decision Choices and Conditions; Attitudes;

Citation:

Gino, F., S. Ayal, and D. Ariely. "Self-serving Altruism? The Lure of Unethical Actions That Benefit Others." Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 93 (September 2013): 285–292.