Competition and Cheating: Investigating the Role of Moral Awareness, Moral Identity, and Moral Elevation

Chandra Pathki, Abhijeet Vadera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Competition can lead individuals to cheat; yet our knowledge of why competition affects cheating and how to mitigate these effects is limited. To address this limitation, we first contrast two theories: arousal theories of competition (via desire to win) and social cognitive theory (via impaired moral awareness). Our results were consistent with social cognitive theory in that competition impairs moral awareness and that this impairment explains why people cheat. We therefore build on social cognitive theory and show that two factors, moral identity and moral elevation, which are likely to make morality salient, moderated the effects of competition on cheating such that these effects were weaker for individuals whose moral identity was more (vs. less) chronically accessible or who were more (vs. less) morally elevated. We test our hypotheses in five experimental studies and one field study with students as well as working adult populations in India and the United States.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1060-1081
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Volume42
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Keywords

  • cheating
  • competition
  • moral awareness
  • moral elevation
  • moral identity

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