Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Understanding Unethical Behavior

Maryam Kouchaki, Nour Kteily,  and Adam Waytz have conducted experimental research to examine repeated unethical behavior.   What psychological mechanisms drive serial offenders to lie and cheat time and again?   These scholars found that individuals try to escape taking personal responsibility for their deceitful actions by blaming their own personality.   It's sort of a "Woe is me, I can't control these bad attributes that drive my behavior" type of thinking.  Kouchaki notes, "Because morally questionable behavior is uncomfortable, people don’t want to take responsibility for it."  

The scholars call it self de-humanization.   Individuals conclude that they have less capacity for self-control, that they don't have the capacity to prevent themselves from making bad choices. Kouchaki explains, "You behave consistently with your self-view that you lack these human capabilities of agency and experience."  In other words, people adopt a negative self-image as a way to justify their unethical behavior.   A vicious cycle ensues.  Bad choices beget this rationalization process, which then makes it easier to cross the line and lie/cheat/steal in the future. 

1 comment:

M Shedd said...

I bet the same could be found for people who serially make personal sacrifices for their work or public life, "Honey, I'm sorry I can't make dinner/kids baseball/the show tonight... I just can't leave [the office] [ my team] [the library] right now".... While there certainly are extraordinary circumstances that require late nights, I'd stake there is a meaningful population who make objectively unnecessary personal sacrifices because they think its what a hard-working/noble/hero would do, and they want that positive self-image, and its all well and good until the skewed work-life balance causes a crash.