Study: Honesty comes if little effort is required

MoodWe are more likely to do the right thing in situations of moral conflict when it requires little to no effort, says a study.

For example, if income information is automatically entered into our tax return, we may be less likely to alter it to something that is incorrect once it is there, the researchers explained.

“We do not think there is one solution for all situations in which you are tempted to be dishonest, but we definitely know from prior research that people tend to accept the status quo,” said study co-author Nina Mazar, associate professor at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto in Canada.

As part of their work, the researchers ran an experiment to gauge how people would behave under different choice scenarios where there was a financial gain attached to their answers.

Participants cheated most when it meant passively ignoring an incorrect answer with higher financial value that had been automatically generated for them, rather than actively creating the dishonest response themselves.

However, cheating was virtually eliminated when the scenario was set up so that participants were automatically given the honest response and had to override it if they wanted to give a different answer that carried a bigger financial gain.

Participants who cheated had slower reaction times than those who did not, suggesting some psychological struggle, the researchers said in an official statement.

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