Friday, June 10, 2011

Sign First To Make Ethics Salient

A group of scholars from Harvard, Toronto, and Duke have conducted an interesting study on how we might induce people to be more honest in self-reporting.  The scholars are Harvard's Lisa L. Shu, Francesca Gino, and Max H. Bazerman, the University of Toronto's Nina Mazar, and Duke's Dan Ariely.   People self-report on forms such as tax returns and expense reports.  In those instances, they often sign the form upon completion. Of course, they might have already lied at that point.   The scholars examined whether asking respondents to sign first, before completing the forms, might actually enhance the level of honesty.  Indeed, their experiments show that moving the signature line to the front of the form increases truthfulness.  The researchers argue that the up-front signature might enhance the salience of ethical norms and standards.   Simply doing that alone appears to increase truthful behavior.   Hmm... will the IRS make any changes based on this research?  Can companies take advantage of this research finding to raise adherence to ethical and legal standards? 

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