Greedy bastards: Testing the relationship between wanting more and unethical behavior

Terri G. Seuntjens*, Marcel Zeelenberg, Niels van de Ven, Seger M. Breugelmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Greed is often seen as immoral. Although the assumption that greed elicits unethical behavior is widespread, there is surprisingly little empirical research testing this relationship. We present a series of three studies investigating the association between greed and unethical behavior, using different methodologies and samples from the USA, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Study 1 (3 samples, total N = 3413) reveals that more greedy individuals find a variety of transgressions more acceptable and justifiable as well as indicate that they have more often engaged in a variety of transgressions compared to less greedy individuals. Study 2 (N = 172) replicated these findings in an incentivized behavioral laboratory study where participants decided to accept a bribe or not. Greedy people were more likely to take a bribe and also preferred higher bribes. Study 3 (N = 302) examined a potential process relating greed to unethical behavior. Greedy people were more likely to transgress because they found the positive outcomes associated with the transgression more desirable, and therefore displayed lower self-control. Implications for general theories of greed and morality are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-156
Number of pages10
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Volume138
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Dispositional Greed Scale
  • Greed
  • Morality
  • Self-control
  • Unethical behavior

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