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Shahar Ayal

Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology; The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya

Editorial: Dishonest Behavior, from Theory to Practice

The rapidly growing field of behavioral ethics has shown that dishonest acts are highly prevalent in all walks of life, from corruption among politicians to flagrant cases of doping in sports, to everyday slips, and misdemeanors by ordinary people who nevertheless perceive themselves as highly moral. For instance, managers exaggerate travel expenses, consumers engage in wardrobing, citizens evade taxes, or download illegal music. When considered cumulatively, these seemingly innocuous and ordinary unethical behaviors cause considerable societal damage and add up to billions of dollars annually (Ariely, 2012). Recent works in the behavioral ethics field have made tremendous advances in understanding the roots of dishonesty and characterizing the contextual and social factors that promote or hinder it. For example, one of the main insights is that people value morality and try to resist the temptation to act dishonestly (Aquino and Reed, 2002; Bazerman and Tenbrunsel, 2011). Investigations of misconduct in real life and in laboratory experiments indicate that while most people act dishonestly in everyday life, their dishonest acts are usually far below the maximum possible (Gneezy, 2005; Mazar et al., 2008; Shalvi et al., 2011). According to the Self-Maintenance model of dishonesty, this is due to ethical dissonance (Ayal and Gino, 2011; Barkan et al., 2012), a psychological tension which stems from the conflict between the desire to benefit from unethical behavior and the motivation to maintain a positive moral image (Barkan et al., 2015; Hochman et al., 2016). The current research topic aims to utilize these lines of work to shift research in behavioral ethics from a descriptive approach to a more prescriptive and applicable one, thus advancing theoretical knowledge and making it possible to implement the findings to design and test practical interventions to promote ethical conduct among individuals in their day to day lives. The first section explores the processes underlying dishonesty and highlights the interplay between moral self-image (MSI) and dishonesty. The second section sheds more light on contextual factors that promote or hinder dishonesty, with special attention to the perceived reasons and consequences of behavior. The last two sections emphasize the role of social and cultural norms both in the form of dishonesty as well as in effective interventions to reduce it.

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