Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Money may corrupt, but thinking about time can strengthen morality

Priming people to think about money makes them more likely to cheat, but priming them to think about time seems to strengthen their moral compass, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The research, conducted by psychological scientists Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Cassie Mogilner of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, shows that implicitly activating the concept of time reduces cheating behavior by encouraging people to engage in self-reflection.

High-profile cases of fraud, scams, and other unethical behavior provide regular fodder for the 24-hour news cycle. But most unethical behavior is much more mundane:

"Less attention is given to the more prevalent 'ordinary' unethical behavior carried out by people who value and care about morality but behave unethically when faced with an opportunity to cheat," says Gino.

Gino and Mogilner wondered whether boosting self-reflection might be one way to encourage people to follow their moral compass.

Across four experiments, the researchers had participants complete various tasks — including word scrambles, searches for song lyrics, and counting tasks — designed to implicitly activate the concept of money, time, or something neutral.

Participants then worked on supposedly unrelated puzzles, reporting how many puzzles they had solved at the end. The researchers incentivized performance, providing additional money for each puzzle the participants solved. Participants could easily cheat by overstating their performance because the puzzle worksheets seemed to be anonymous, and they were recycled at the end of the task.

What the participants didn't know was that each worksheet had a unique number on it, allowing the researchers to compare how many puzzles the participants actually solved to how many they said they solved.

The results were clear: Disposing people to think about money seemed to make them cheat.

In the first experiment, 87.5% of the participants primed to think of money cheated on the puzzles, compared to only 66.7% of those participants primed with neutral words. They also cheated to a greater extent, artificially boosting their scores by a greater margin than the other participants.

Thinking about time, on the other hand, seemed to prevent people from cheating: Only 42.4% of the participants primed with the concept of time overstated their performance on the task.

Data from subsequent experiments showed that the link between money and cheating, and between time and cheating, could be explained by self-reflection (or lack thereof).

Priming the concept of time seems to lead people "to notice that how they spend their time sums up to their life as a whole, encouraging them to act in ways they can be proud of when holding up this mirror to who they are," the researchers write.

While time may be an important tool in keeping us on the straight and narrow, preliminary data collected by Gino and Mogilner suggest that people tend to pay more attention to money.

"These new findings show the benefits of doing just the opposite: thinking about time rather than money," says Gino. "Our results suggest that finding ways to nudge people to reflect on the self at the time of temptation, rather than on the potential rewards they can accrue by cheating, may be an effective way to curb dishonesty."

For more information about this study, please contact: Francesca Gino at

The article abstract can be found online:

This research was supported by the Harvard Business School and Wharton's Dean's Research Fund.

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Time, Money, and Morality" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or

Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Business School Business Vision Science TV unethical behavior

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>