Cheating More for Less: Upward Social Comparisons Motivate the Poorly Compensated to Cheat
37 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2013 Last revised: 30 Aug 2013
Date Written: August 9, 2013
Intuitively, people should cheat more when cheating is more lucrative, but we find that the effect of performance-based pay-rates on dishonesty depends on how readily people can compare their pay-rate to that of others. In Experiment 1, participants were paid 5 cents or 25 cents per self-reported point in a trivia task, and half were aware that they could have received the alternative pay-rate. Lower pay-rates increased cheating when the prospect of a higher pay-rate was salient. Experiment 2 illustrates that this effect is driven by the ease with which poorly compensated participants can compare their pay to that of others who earn a higher pay-rate. Our results suggest that low pay-rates are, in and of themselves, unlikely to promote dishonesty. Instead, it is the salience of upward social comparisons that encourages the poorly compensated to cheat.
Keywords: dishonesty, decision making, social comparison, fairness, pay secrecy
JEL Classification: C91, D20, D31, J31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation