Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Operations & Information Management

First Advisor

Maurice E. Schweitzer

Abstract

Unethical behavior in organizations is pervasive. The social and economic consequences of unethical behavior are profound, and a large body of work in economics, psychology, and management has been dedicated to investigating organizational misconduct. Despite increased scholarly interest, there has been a strong methodological convergence in behavioral ethics experiments that has narrowed the scope of ethical decision-making research. In this dissertation, I use novel experimental methods to advance the study of ethical decision making both theoretically and methodologically. In Chapters 1 & 2, I highlight the limits of financially incentivized behavior and demonstrate how fear of shame and fear of embarrassment guide ethical judgment. In Chapter 1, I show that people will lie and sacrifice financial gain to avoid being embarrassed in front of others. In Chapter 2, I show that people can learn appropriate behavior from others’ expressions of shame. I find that people will avoid the behavior that elicits shame in others even when paid to engage in that behavior and when the norms surrounding that behavior are otherwise ambiguous. In Chapter 3, I draw the conceptual distinction between cheating behavior and lying behavior. While prior work has considered the terms interchangeable, by identifying the two behaviors as distinct, I reconcile conflicting findings in behavioral ethics. Together, this dissertation highlights the limitations of extant approaches and expands our understanding of ethical decision making.

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