How Much Does Honesty Cost? Small Bonuses Can Motivate Ethical Behavior

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

8 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations

Author(s)

Related Research Unit(s)

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2903-2914
Journal / PublicationManagement Science
Volume63
Issue number9
Online published21 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

Abstract

Although people generally try to avoid lying, the lure of potential monetary payoffs often leads to unethical behavior. The current research investigates whether small monetary rewards for honesty help people resist the temptations of larger incentives or whether they backfire and lead to even more dishonesty. Four experiments address these issues. Experiment 1 shows that a $1 bonus led people to act more honestly when they could have lied to obtain $4; an identical bonus, however, did not increase dishonesty. Experiment 2 uses a different context and again shows that a $1 bonus led people to act more honestly; it also finds no evidence that this small payoff crowded out subsequent altruistic behavior. Experiment 3 shows that a $1 bonus increased people’s honesty even when the payoffs for lying increased to $8, $12, and $16, but not when the payoff for lying increased to $20. Experiment 4 finds that smaller bonuses for honesty still had an impact, although it tended to be somewhat weaker. In addition, compared with no bonus, the combined effect of several small monetary bonuses (1 dollar, 75 cents, 50 cents, and 25 cents) marginally reduced lying.

Research Area(s)

  • Honesty, Incentive, Monetary reward, Money, Morality

Citation Format(s)

How Much Does Honesty Cost? Small Bonuses Can Motivate Ethical Behavior. / Wang, Long; Murnighan, J. Keith.

In: Management Science, Vol. 63, No. 9, 09.2017, p. 2903-2914.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review