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Student:PaulPrae Date:April19th,2011 PSYC4100:ArticleCritique2 ACritiqueofContagionandDifferentiationinUnethicalBehavior Thisstudyexamineshumanbehaviorinregardstoethicalactionsinasocialsetting.Thepurpose ofthisstudywastocreateagreaterunderstandingofhowpeoplesactionsareaffectedbytheunethical actionsofthosearoundthem.Inthisstudy,thefocusisonunethicalbehaviorintheformofdishonesty. Theresearcherswantedtoanswerquestionssuchas,Ifapersonwitnessesapeerbeingdishonest,will thispersonbemorelikelytobedishonestthemselves?orIfsomeonementionsbeingdishonest,will thisincreaseordecreasethelikelihoodofanobserveralsobeingdishonest?.Thesequestionsanda fewotherswereansweredthroughtheresultsofthisstudy.Beforethestudyoccurred,theresearchers establishedtheirhypothesesbasedonseveralpreexistingtheoriesaswellasafewpreviousstudies. Thearticlediscussedthreemainmechanismsthatcouldethicallyinfluenceanindividuals actions.Theresearchersbasedtheirhypothesesonthetheoriesbehindthesethreemechanisms.

First, thepapermentionsthatanindividualscostbenefitanalysis,amechanismthatisusedtodecidewhat actionsareappropriatetotake,canbeinfluencedbyobservinganotherpersongettingawaywitha dishonestaction.Theresearchershypothesizedthatanindividualwillactmoredishonestlyifthey witnessanaccountofanotherindividualgettingawaywithadishonestaction.Thesecondsourceof influencethatthestudytakesintoconsiderationistheconceptofthesaliencyoftheethicsbehindan action.Thismechanismsuggeststhatwhentheethicsofanactionaremadereadilyapparenttoan individual,thisindividualwillthenselfreflectonhisorherownpotentialactions.Theresearchers hypothesizedthatthisselfreflectionwillthencausetheindividualtoprotecthisorherownmoral selfimagebyreducingtheindividualsinvolvementindishonestbehavior.Thethirdmechanism mentionedhastodowiththesocialnormtheory,whereindividualsaresaidtobehaveinrespectto whatpeopletendtodoandapproveof,andthesocialidentitytheory,whichstatesthattheinfluenceof unethicalbehaviorisrelativetohowcloseanindividualidentifieswiththesourceoftheunethical behavior.Theresearchershypothesizedthatanindividualwillbehavesimilartoaningroupmemberand willavoidimitatingtheunethicalbehaviorofanoutgroupmember.Thesethreehypothesesweretested usingtwodifferentexperiments.

Inthefirstexperiment,theresearcherssetupfourdifferentscenarios.Thesescenarioswere identicalinallbutafewways.Ineachscenario,agroupofparticipantswereaskedtosolveaseriesof simplearithmeticproblemswithinafiveminutetimeperiod.Theywrotedownandsubmittedhowmany theywereabletosolve.Theseparticipantswereallowedtorewardthemselveswithacertainamountof moneyforeveryquestiontheygotright.Theywereaskedtoreturnthemoneytheydidnotearn.Each scenariowasdifferentbasedonsomecondition.Inthecontrolcondition,theexperimenterconfirmed thattheparticipantonlytookthemoneythattheyearned.Intheshreddercondition,theparticipants wereallowedtoshredtheevidenceoftheirworkandtakethemoneythattheysaidtheyearned.Inthe twoidentityconditions,everythingwasthesameasintheshredderconditionexceptanactormadeit obviousthatheorshewascheatingandwalkedawaywiththefullreward.Intheoutgroupidentity condition,theconfederateworearivalingcollegestshirt.Intheingroupidentitycondition,heorshe woreaplaintshirt.Thesecondexperimenthadallthesameconditionsaswiththefirstexperiment except,insteadofthetwoidentityconditions,therewasasaliencycondition.Thissaliencycondition wasidenticaltotheshredderconditionexceptthattherewasanactorwhospokeupandaskedifitwas OKtocheat.Heretheexperimenteransweredsayingthattheparticipantscandowhatevertheywant. Theresultsofthestudyshowedthatindividualsdoindeedchangetheirbehaviorbasedonthe unethicalbehaviorsofotherpeoplearoundthem.Inthefirstexperiment,theresearcherstookthe averagenumberofquestionseachparticipantsubmittedasgettingcorrectfromwithineachcondition. Eachconditionvariedinamountasfollows:thecontrolgrouphadtheleast,theoutgroupthesecond least,theshreddergroupthesecondmost,andtheingroupthemost.Theseoutcomesprovidedagood defenseforthesocialnormshypothesisbecausetheconfederatefromthetwoidentityconditions causedachangeincheatingincomparisontotheshreddercondition.Thesocialidentitytheorywas supportedbythefactthattheingroupconditionallowedformorecheatingthanboththeshredder conditionandtheoutgroupcondition.Theseoutcomesdonotsubstantiatethecostbenefitmechanism. Ifthismechanismwasatplay,thentheoccurrencesofcheatingwouldhavebeenthegreatestand approximatelyidenticalinbothoftheidentityconditions.Theresultsofthesecondexperimentshowed thatthecontrolconditionhadthesmallestamountofarithmeticproblemssolved,theshreddercondition reportedthemostbeingsolved,andthesaliencyconditionreportedanamountinbetweentheothertwo conditions.Theimportantconclusiontodrawfromexperimenttwowasthatthesaliencyofthesituation

decreasedthedishonestyoftheparticipants.Thiswasderivedbyacomparisonofthesaliencycondition tothatoftheshreddercondition. Aswithanystudy,thisonehaditslimitations.Theresearchersdidhaverestrictionsonhowthey wereabletodesigntheirscenariostoimitaterealworldsituations.Forexample,thepossibledamageto theparticipantsselfimagewastheonlynegativeconsequenceofcheatinginthisstudy.Thislackof negativeconsequenceisnotnecessarilyrealistic.Ofcourse,theresearchersarelimitedbywhatis ethicalandreasonabletoimplementasanegativeconsequenceforaparticipantsunethicalactions. Anotherlimitationofthisstudywasthesimplefactthattheresearcherswerenotabletoreallygetinside themindsoftheparticipants.Iftheresearcherswereabletoknowtheexactdetailsbehindeach participantsdecisionmakingprocess,thatinformationwouldhavebeenhelpfulinunderstandingthe causesofeachparticipantsactions. Ibelievethisstudywasdesignedwell.Theykeptthestudyverysimpleandstraightforward.The improvementsthatdoexistwereprobablynotimplementedduetoalackofresourcessuchasfunding ortime.Animprovementforthisstudywouldbetoincorporateotherformsofunethicalbehavior (besideslying)intotheexperiments.Thiswouldpossiblyhaveprovideduswithamorewellrounded understandingofthecauseandeffectofdifferenttypesofunethicalsituations.Anotherimprovementthat couldhavebeenimplemented(andthattriestoaddressthemindreadinglimitationmentionedabove) wouldhavebeentointervieweachparticipantaftertheirsessionwascomplete.Thismayhaveprovided additionalinsightintothethoughtsbehindtheiractions. Thisstudyprovedtobequiteinterestingandinformative.Thisstudy,andthemanyotherslikeit, areimportanttohelpingusunderstandethicalhumanbehavior.Ethicsarecentraltomanyofourworlds greatestproblems.Manyaspectsofourlivesaredefinedbywhatisrightandwhatiswrong.Our futuresarestructuredbasedonourdecisionsandthedecisionsofthoseinoursociety.Thisstudybrings usonestepclosertodefiningthetruenatureofthemechanismsthatinfluenceourdecisionmaking process.Iamsurethisstudywillbeasolidsteppingstoneforfuturedevelopmentinthisarea.Itcreated empiricalevidencethatsupportedafewtheoriesandopposedothers.Thesenewlydiscovered constraintsonestablishedtheorieswillcertainlyadvanceresearchinthisfield.