Oliver J. Sheldon and Ayelet Fishbach
Published online before print May 22, 2015
Ethical dilemmas pose a self-control conflict between pursuing immediate benefits through behaving dishonestly and pursuing long-term benefits through acts of honesty. Therefore, factors that facilitate self-control for other types of goals (e.g., health and financial) should also promote ethical behavior. Across four studies, we find support for this possibility. Specifically, we find that only under conditions that facilitate conflict identification—including the consideration of several decisions simultaneously (i.e., a broad decision frame) and perceived high connectedness to the future self—does anticipating a temptation to behave dishonestly in advance promote honesty. We demonstrate these interaction patterns between conflict identification and temptation anticipation in negotiation situations (Study 1), lab tasks (Study 2), and ethical dilemmas in the workplace (Studies 3-4). We conclude that identifying a self-control conflict and anticipating a temptation are two necessary preconditions for ethical decision making.
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