The Effect of Perspective on Unethical Behavior

Amos Schurr
Ilana Ritov
Yaakov Kareev
Judith Avrahami

In two experiments, we explored how the perspective through which individuals view their decisions influences their moral behavior. To do this we employed a computerized "Is that the answer you had in mind?" trivial-pursuit style game. The game challenges individuals' integrity because cheating during play cannot be detected. Perspective, whether local or global, was manipulated: In Experiment 1 the choice procedure was used to evoke a local or an integrative perspective of one's choices, whereas in Experiment 2, perspective was manipulated through priming. Across all the experiments, we observed that when given an incentive to cheat, the adoption of a local perspective increased cheating, as evidenced by overall higher reported success rates. These findings have clear implications for explaining and controlling behavior in other situations (e.g., exercising, dieting) in which the perspective one takes is a matter of choice.

August, 2012