A sample of the topics I'm currently investigating:
How do people convince themselves that they have a license to sin?
One line of my work examines how the ability to point to evidence of past virtue can ironically make people more willing to act less-than-virtuously. For example:
• Endorsing Barack Obama increased people's tendency to express politically incorrect views about race [article]
• When dieters reflected on how their eating behavior "could have been worse," they pursued less "virtuous" dieting goals over the course of the next week [article]
I have also examined how people strategically convince themselves that they have a license to sin. For example, in anticipation of acting less-than-virtuously in the future, people will:
• alter their behavior to act more "virtuously" in the present [article]
• overestimate how virtuous their behavior will seem to others [article]
• distort their memories of how much bad behavior they declined to perform in the past [article]
How do we judge people who fail to practice what they preach?
Recent projects examine:
• how membership in an organization can make employees vulnerable to condemnation as "hypocrites by association" [article]
• when doing good deeds earns people a license to transgress vs. makes them seem like hypocrites when they transgress [article]
• how aversion to hypocrisy prevents good advice from being disseminated [article]
• cultural differences in how harshly people get penalized for "saying one thing but doing another" [article]
How do people think about dishonesty?
Opportunities to commit ethical violations for personal gain often come in a series with a known end. For example, consultants on short-term contracts may have a fixed number of opportunities to overbill their clients. My research shows that people are more likely to seize a cheating opportunity if it is their last one. This is because they anticipate that they would feel particularly regretful if they passed up a final chance to benefit from dishonesty. [article]
Recent and ongoing research examines when people let others off the hook for dishonesty. For example, I have found that people don't mind being told falsehoods as much when they are invited to imagine how the falsehoods could have been true. [article | NYTimes op-ed]
Ethics and Groups
How do perceptions of group cohesion affect ethical behavior?
Some organizations, ethnicities, religions and other groups are perceived as more tightly knit than others. I am interested in how these perceptions of group cohesion affects decision to engage in (un)ethical behavior, as well as judgments of such behavior.
For example, my research shows that perceiving their racial or religious group as more cohesive increased people's willingness to publicly express their private prejudices against outgroups. [article]
A current project examines how people's judgments of organizational wrongdoing depends on how cohesive they think the organization's employees are.