Department of Management

Honestly Hungry: Acute Hunger Does Not Increase Unethical Economic Behaviour  

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Acute hunger leads to self-protective behaviour, where people keep resources to themselves. However, little is known about whether acute hunger influences individuals’ inclination to engage in unethical behaviour for direct monetary gains. Past research in moral psychology has found that people are less likely to cheat for monetary than non-monetary gains. Integrating research on scarcity into the study of unethical economic behaviour, we predicted that acute hunger increases cheating for monetary gains. We further predicted that this effect is moderated by childhood socioeconomic status, trait self-control, and moral identity. We tested these predictions in a well-powered laboratory experiment where we manipulated acute physiological hunger as indexed by blood glucose levels and obtained a validated behavioural measure of cheating for direct monetary gains. Contrary to our predictions, our results show that acute physiological hunger as indexed by blood glucose levels does not increase (or decrease) the propensity to engage in unethical economic behaviour and that neither childhood socioeconomic status nor trait self-control or moral identity moderate this relationship. These findings advance scientific understanding of whether experiences of scarcity shape moral judgment and decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104312
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

    Research areas

  • Acute hunger, Blood glucose, Experimental methods, Moral psychology, Relative resource scarcity, Unethical economic behaviour

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