Conscience without cognition: The effects of subconscious priming on ethical behavior

David T. Welsh, Lisa D Ordonez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

59 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research in the field of behavioral ethics has traditionally viewed ethical decision making as rational and deliberate. However, some recent research has proposed a dual process model of ethical decision making that has both conscious and subconscious components (Reynolds, 2006). We extend current theory by using subconscious ethical and unethical priming to test the effects of subconscious processes on ethical behavior through an automatic process of schema activation and implicit association. Studies 1 and 2 extend self-concept maintenance theory (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 2008) by exploring the mediated process through which subconscious ethical and unethical primes trigger the activation of moral standards, thereby influencing categorization and subsequent responses to morally ambiguous situations. Study 3 demonstrates that both subconscious ethical and unethical priming reduce dishonesty even when participants are unmonitored and are given difficult performance goals that previously have been shown to lead to unethical behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-742
Number of pages20
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Volume57
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

Fingerprint

Decision making
Chemical activation
Association reactions
Ethical behavior
Priming
Cognition
Ethical decision making
Activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)

Cite this

Conscience without cognition : The effects of subconscious priming on ethical behavior. / Welsh, David T.; Ordonez, Lisa D.

In: Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 57, No. 3, 01.06.2014, p. 723-742.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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