Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

From good intentions to bad behavior: The role of motivation in moral decision-making
by Dyer, Rebecca L., Ph.D., Yale University, 2014, 177; 3580673
Abstract (Summary)

In a society that rewards individual achievement, a serious threat comes from people who will cheat the system for personal gain. In spite of the great risks associated with getting caught, cheating is actually remarkably common (e.g., Mazar & Ariely, 2006), from students cheating on a test to major league baseball players taking steroids to create an unfair advantage. At the same time, a large body of research has shown how normative prosocial behavior is (see Batson, 2012). How can it be that humans appear both incredibly selfish and incredibly selfless? Across a series of studies, the present paper aims to understand the discrepancy between the value of honesty and the prevalence of cheating for selfish gain by exploring the path from good intentions to bad behavior. Though results were quite mixed, some support was found for the idea that even as people maintain very high standards, active goals and mindsets do play an important role in moral decision-making. These factors can be the difference between maintaining and deserting one's good intentions. In particular, it was found that although moral standards are generally very high (Study 1), an active achievement goal can increase willingness to cheat (Study 2); that wanting to make one's parents proud increases willingness to cheat, but only when there is room for self-justification (Study 3); that, when one is under stress, trying not to cheat leads to more cheating (Studies 4 and 5); that abstract thinking leads to an increase in cheating, compared to concrete thinking, at least in women (Study 6); and that abstract thinking attenuates the link between cheating and negative mood (Study 7). Implications for moral behavior and other regulatory processes are considered.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bargh, John A.
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-B 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology
Keywords: Construal, Moral behavior, Moral judgment, Motivation
Publication Number: 3580673
ISBN: 978-1-321-04829-2
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