Magazine article Psychology Today

A Series of Unconscionable Events

Magazine article Psychology Today

A Series of Unconscionable Events

Article excerpt

WHY DO INJUSTICES SNOWBALL? RESEARCH EXPLAINS.

YOU MIGHT NOT think twice about swiping a stapler from the office, but what about stealing from the company till? A new paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology offers evidence that under the right circumstances relatively small misdeeds can pave the way to more serious ones.

In a series of studies, researchers found that people were most likely to act unethically when tested in "slippery slope" conditions-where rewards for bad behavior increased gradually. In one experiment, participants attempted to solve problems and then reported, on the honor system, how many they solved correctly. Subjects in the experimental group received 25 cents for each correct answer in the first round, $1 in the second, and $2.50 in the third. The gradual increase stepped up their incentive to lie to testers-and made each potential lie worse than the last. People in other groups were paid either nothing or a flat $2.50 for each correct solution. …

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