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Depletion, moral identity, and unethical behavior: Why people behave unethically after self-control exertion.

Authors
  • Wang, Yan1
  • Wang, Guosen2
  • Chen, Qiuju2
  • Li, Lin2
  • 1 School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. Electronic address: [email protected] , (China)
  • 2 School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. , (China)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Consciousness and Cognition
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2017
Volume
56
Pages
188–198
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.09.007
PMID: 28966038
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Self-control enables people to resist short-term temptations in the service of long-term goals. Previous exertion of self-control leads to a state of ego depletion. Three studies demonstrated that ego depletion leads to a high level of unethical behavior. These studies also hypothesized and confirmed that depleted individuals behave unethically because of low moral identity. Study 1 found that depleted participants were more likely to over-report their performance than non-depleted participants. Study 2 revealed that depletion reduced people's moral identity, which in turn increased their propensity to engage in unethical behavior. Study 3 proved that priming moral identity eliminated the effect of depletion on cheating. Findings suggest that reduced moral identity accounts for the effect of self-control depletion on unethical behavior.

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