Magazine article Psychology Today

Cheating to Keep

Magazine article Psychology Today

Cheating to Keep

Article excerpt

THE DESIRE TO achieve status tempts many to bend the rules along the way. But people may also cheat to avoid a loss of status. New work by New York University management researcher Nathan Pettit and colleagues measured the power of these two motivators.

According to the principle of loss aversion, people prefer avoiding losses to making equivalent gains and are more willing to take risks to avoid a loss. Pettit found that we assign extra value not only to material possessions but also to social ones. In one experiment, each participant was asked to write a persuasive argument to be evaluated by others, then was told that he or she had ranked third (out of five) among participants. Some learned that by completing a series of math problems they could boost that rank to second place; others, that they could avoid slipping to fourth place. …

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