Hypocrisy flourishing among powerful, rich and popularDecember 30th, 2009 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Dec 30 (IANS) The year gone by has been marked by a series of moral transgressions in political, business and celebrity circles.
New research from the Kellogg School of Management explores why powerful people, who pose to be paragons of probity, seldom practise what they preach.
The research conducted by Joris Lammers and Diederik A. Stapel of Tilburg University, the Netherlands and by Adam Galinsky of Kellogg, finds that power makes people stricter in moral judgment of others - while being tolerant of their own.
“This research is especially relevant to the biggest scandals of 2009, as we look back on how private behaviour often contradicted the public stance of particular individuals in power,” said Galinsky, Kellogg’s professor of ethics and decision.
“For instance, we saw some politicians use public funds for private benefits while calling for smaller government, or have extramarital affairs while advocating family values,” added Galinsky.
Moral hypocrisy has its greatest impact among people who are legitimately powerful, he noted.
“Similarly, we witnessed CEOs of major financial institutions accepting executive bonuses while simultaneously asking for government bailout money on behalf of their companies.”
“According to our research, power and influence can cause a severe disconnect between public judgment and private behaviour, and as a result, the powerful are stricter in their judgment of others while being more lenient toward their own actions,” he continued.
To simulate an experience of power, the researchers assigned roles of high-power and low-power positions to a group of study participants.
Some were assigned the role of prime minister and others civil servant. The participants were then presented with moral dilemmas related to breaking traffic rules, declaring taxes, and returning a stolen bike.
Through a series of five experiments, the researchers examined the impact of power on moral hypocrisy. For example, in one experiment the “powerful” participants condemned the cheating of others while cheating more themselves.
Those assigned to high-power roles showed significant moral hypocrisy by more strictly judging others for speeding, dodging taxes and keeping a stolen bike, while finding it more acceptable to engage in these behaviours themselves, said a Kellogg’s release.
High-power participants also tended to condemn over-reporting of travel expenses. But, when given a chance to cheat on a dice game to win lottery tickets, the powerful people reported winning a higher amount of lottery tickets than did low-power participants.
Conversely, another experiment demonstrated that people who don’t feel personally entitled to power are actually harder on themselves than they are on others, which is a phenomenon the researchers dubbed “hypercrisy”.
The study is slated for publication in Psychological Science.
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Tags: civil servant, executive bonuses, extramarital affairs, financial institutions, galinsky, kellogg school of management, lammers, moral dilemmas, moral judgment, paragons, political business, power and influence, power positions, private benefits, probity, public judgment, public stance, study participants, tilburg university, traffic rules