A new study finds a connection betwen just thinking about money and unethical behavior
Does A father is explaining ethics to his son, who is about to go into business: “Suppose a woman comes in and orders $100-worth of material. You wrap it up, and you give it to her. She pays you with a $100 bill. But as she goes out the door you realize she’s given you two $100 bills. Now, here’s where the ethics come in: should you or should you not tell your partner?”
This classic Henny Youngman joke gets to the heart of recent studies by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Utah that finds merely thinking about money can compel people toward unethical behavior.
In the studies, just over 320 participating graduate students were divided into two groups. One was a control group. The other was exposed to images of currency or was asked to unscramble words to form such money-related phrases as “She spends money liberally.’
Over the course of several studies, both groups were then charged with carrying out tasks that presented opportunities for unethical behavior. In each, the group that had been “primed” with the thought of money “were more likely to demonstrate unethical intentions, decisions, and behavior than participants in a control condition,” noted Kristin Smith-Crowe, psychologist and associate professor at Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.
They were, for example, more likely to steal a ream of paper from the office to bring home, or hire a job candidate who said they were willing to share insider information about their former company. In a two-player “deception game” in which lying would result in earning more money than telling the truth, there was twice as much deception among the money-primed group.
“These findings suggest that money is a more insidious corrupting factor than previously appreciated, as mere, subtle exposure to money can be a corrupting influence,” the study concludes.
Money may be “the root of all kinds of evil,” according to the New Testament, but a recent survey conducted by Millionaire Corner found a grudging admission by wealthy investors that it was a significant component in their perception of self well-being. Millionaires reported much higher levels of satisfaction than their less wealthy counterparts in their family relationships, social life, fulfilling activities outside of work, and job fulfillment (Click here to read more).
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.