Department of Economics and Business Economics

Can a sense of entitlement increase stealing?

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  • Wp12 21

    Submitted manuscript, 8.18 MB, PDF document

  • Christina Annette Gravert, Denmark
Are people more likely to steal when the payoff they deserve is determined randomly or when it depends on their performance in a difficult task? In this paper I investigate how the probability of stealing is affected by the way in which payoff is earned. After answering a short survey one group was asked to roll a die to determine their payoff, while the other group had three minutes to find matching numbers in a matrix task. Participants then paid themselves unobserved by the experimenter. I find that the participants who earned
their payoff according to performance were three times more likely to take the (undeserved) maximum payoff than the participants in the random payment scheme. In contrast to previous findings in the cheating literature, stealing is an all-or-nothing decision rather than a trade-off between a slightly higher payoff and the desire to keep ones moral values intact. The results support the theory that unethical behavior is increased by a sense of entitlement, which is more pronounced when wealth depends on performance than on the roll of a die.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationAarhus
PublisherInstitut for Økonomi, Aarhus Universitet
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2012
SeriesEconomics Working Papers
Number2012-21

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