Toronto Star

And the moral of story is . . .


When researcher­s asked people whether they felt they were moral, and then asked whether they would ever cheat on a test, those who said they were the least likely to cheat turned out to be the same ones who had the strongest conviction that they were moral. No surprise there.

But when the researcher­s looked at the group who said they were the most likely to cheat, they found that this group, too, had strong conviction­s that they were moral. Those who lacked a strong sense that they were moral tended to be iffy about whether they would cheat.

Scott Reynolds and Tara Ceranic say their research, published in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, highlights the idea that people with exceptiona­lly strong conviction­s about their moral goodness are likely to follow extreme courses of action because they can convince themselves that whatever they do is good.

When the researcher­s asked managers to make a judgment call involving a conscienti­ous employee who needed to go home early, the managers who believed most strongly that they were good people either let the employee off with full pay, or insisted the employee stay and work full hours. Managers who did not think they were particular­ly good people had the employee finish some work and then leave early.

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