Money, moral transgressions, and blame

Xie, W., Yu, B., Zhou, X., Sedikides, C. and Vohs, K.D. (2013) Money, moral transgressions, and blame Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24, (3), pp. 299-306. (doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2013.12.002).


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Two experiments tested participants' attributions for others' immoral behaviors when conducted for more versus less money. We hypothesized and found that observers would blame wrongdoers more when seeing a transgression enacted for little rather than a lot of money, and that this would be evident in observers' hand-washing behavior. Experiment 1 used a cognitive dissonance paradigm. Participants (N = 160) observed a confederate lie in exchange for either a relatively large or a small monetary payment. Participants blamed the liar more in the small (versus large) money condition. Participants (N = 184) in Experiment 2 saw images of someone knocking over another to obtain a small, medium, or large monetary sum. In the small (versus large) money condition, participants blamed the perpetrator (money) more. Hence, participants assigned less blame to moral wrong-doers, if the latter enacted their deed to obtain relatively large sums of money. Small amounts of money accentuate the immorality of others' transgressions.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2013.12.002
ISSNs: 1057-7408 (print)
Keywords: money, morality, cognitive dissonance, attribution, blame, contagion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
ePrint ID: 366730
Date :
Date Event
12 December 2013e-pub ahead of print
July 2014Published
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2014 10:49
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 13:31
Further Information:Google Scholar

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