NYU Stern

Readings

Readings Spring 2011

Dolly Chugh, "Bounded Ethicality: The Perils of Loss Framing"

Ethical decision making is vulnerable to the forces of automaticity. People behave differently in the face of a potential loss versus a potential gain, even when the two situations are transparently identical. Across three experiments, decision makers engaged in more unethical behavior if a decision was presented in a loss frame than if the decision was presented in a gain frame. In Experiment 1, participants in the loss-frame condition were more likely to favor gathering ‘‘insider information’’ than were participants in the gain-frame condition. In Experiment 2, negotiators in the loss-frame condition lied more than negotiators in the gain-frame condition. In Experiment 3, the tendency to be less ethical in the loss-frame condition occurred under time pressure and was eliminated through the removal of time pressure.


Ann Tenbrunsel, "The Ethical Mirage"

This paper explores the biased perceptions that people hold of their own ethicality. We argue that the temporal trichotomy of prediction, action and recollection is central to these misperceptions: People predict that they will behave more ethically than they actually do, and when evaluating past (un)ethical behavior, they believe they behaved more ethically than they actually did. We use the ‘‘want/should’’ theoretical framework to explain the bounded ethicality that arises from these temporal inconsistencies, positing that the ‘‘should’’ self dominates during the prediction and recollection phases but that the ‘‘want’’ self is dominant during the critical action phase.We draw on the research on behavioral forecasting, ethical fading, and cognitive distortions to gain insight into the forces driving these faulty perceptions and, noting how these misperceptions can lead to continued unethical behavior, we provide recommendations for how to reduce them.We also include a call for future research to better understand this phenomenon.


Donald Braman, "They Saw A Protest"

Cultural cognition refers to the unconscious influence of individuals’ group commitments on their perceptions of legally consequential facts. We con-ducted an experiment to assess the impact of cultural cognition on percep-tions of facts relevant to distinguishing constitutionally protected “speech” from unprotected “conduct.” Study subjects viewed a video of a political demonstration. Half the subjects believed that the demonstrators were protesting abortion outside of an abortion clinic, and the other half that the demonstrators were protesting the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol-icy outside a campus recruitment facility. Subjects of opposing cultural outlooks who were assigned to the same experimental condition (and thus had the same belief about the nature of the protest) disagreed sharply on key “facts”—including whether the protestors obstructed and threatened pedestrians. Subjects also disagreed sharply with those who shared their cultural outlooks but who were assigned to the opposing experimental con-dition (and hence had a different belief about the nature of the protest). These results supported the study hypotheses about how cultural cogni-tion would affect perceptions pertinent to the “speech”-“conduct” distinc-tion. We discuss the significance of the results for constitutional law and liberal principles of self-governance generally.


Lee Anne Fennell, "The Unbounded Home"

What does property mean, here and now, in the early twentyfirst-century United States? This book approaches the question by examining a set of problems surrounding our society’s most familiar, important, and emotionally freighted manifestation of property—the home. That the home has evolved as a resource over the past two centuries should not surprise even the most casual observer of social history. In 1790, just over 5 percent of the U.S. population lived in urban areas; by 2000, the figure was 79 percent, and more than 80 percent of the population resided within metropolitan areas.1 Homeownership rates have also grown significantly; about two thirds of metropolitan area householders are now homeowners.2 The residential experience for most Americans thus uneasily combines the profound interdependence of metropolitan life with the promise of unbridled autonomy that homeownership connotes.


Michael Norton, "Building A Better America - One Wealth Quintile At A Time"

Disagreements about the optimal level of wealth inequality underlie policy debates ranging from taxation to welfare. We attempt to insert the desires of ‘‘regular’’ Americans into these debates, by asking a nationally representative online panel to estimate the current distribution of wealth in the United States and to ‘‘build a better America’’ by constructing distributions with their ideal level of inequality. First, respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. Second, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution. Most important from a policy perspective, we observed a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.


Benoit Monin, "The Rejection of Moral Liberals - Resenting Those Who Do The Right Thing"

Four studies document the rejection of moral rebels. In Study 1, participants who made a counter-attitudinal speech disliked a person who refused on principle to do so, but uninvolved observers preferred this rebel to an obedient other. In Study 2, participants taking part in a racist task disliked a rebel who refused to go along, but mere observers did not. This rejection was mediated by the perception that rebels would reject obedient participants (Study 3), but did not occur when participants described an important trait or value beforehand (Study 4). Together, these studies suggest that rebels are resented when their implicit reproach threatens the positive self-image of individuals who did not rebel.


Christine Jolls, "Bias And The Law"

Shortly after noon on July 16, 2009, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a well-known African-American professor at Harvard University, was arrested at his home after a verbal confrontation with a Cambridge police officer who was investigating a call about a possible burglary. Gates returned home from a trip to China to find the front door to his home jammed. With help from his driver, Gates forced the door open and entered the house. After neighbor Lucia Whalen called the Cambridge police to report that two men may have been breaking into the house, Sergeant James Crowley and several other Cambridge police officers arrived on the scene. The key details of what occurred next differ between Crowley and Gates. Crowley reported that Gates was aggressive, yelling very loudly, threatening Crowley repeatedly, and refusing to follow Crowley’s instruction that Gates step outside. Gates’ account of the incident indicated that Crowley repeatedly refused to provide his name and badge number upon Gates’s request (Olopade 2009). What is certain is that the incident ended with the arrest of the fifty-eight-year-old professor for disorderly conduct.


Francesca Gino, "Unable To Resist Temptation"

Across four experimental studies, individuals who were depleted of their self-regulatory resources by an initial act of self-control were more likely to “impulsively cheat” than individuals whose self-regulatory resources were intact. Our results demonstrate that individuals depleted of self-control resources were more likely to behave dishonestly (Study 1). Depletion reduced people’s moral awareness when they faced the opportunity to cheat, which, in turn, was responsible for heightened cheating (Study 2). Individuals high in moral identity, however, did not show elevated levels of cheating when they were depleted (Study 3), supporting our hypothesis that self-control depletion increases cheating when it robs people of the executive resources necessary to identify an act as immoral or unethical. Our results also show that resisting unethical behavior both requires and depletes self-control resources (Study 4). Taken together, our findings help to explain how otherwise ethical individuals predictably engage in unethical behavior.


Frans De Waal, "How Animals Do Business"

Just as my office would not stay empty for long were I to move out, nature's real estate changes hands all the time. Potential homes range from holes drilled by woodpeckers to empty shells on the beach. A typical example of what economists call a "vacancy chain" is the housing market among hermit crabs. To protect its soft abdomen, each crab carries its house around, usually an abandoned gastropod shell. The problem is that the crab grows, whereas its house does not. Hermit crabs are always on the lookout for new accommodations. The moment they upgrade to a roomier shell, other crabs line up for the vacated one.


Christopher Michaelson, "The Importance of Meaningful Work"

Across four experimental studies, individuals who were depleted of their self-regulatory resources by an initial act of self-control were more likely to “impulsively cheat” than individuals whose self-regulatory resources were intact. Our results demonstrate that individuals depleted of self-control resources were more likely to behave dishonestly (Study 1). Depletion reduced people’s moral awareness when they faced the opportunity to cheat, which, in turn, was responsible for heightened cheating (Study 2). Individuals high in moral identity, however, did not show elevated levels of cheating when they were depleted (Study 3), supporting our hypothesis that self-control depletion increases cheating when it robs people of the executive resources necessary to identify an act as immoral or unethical. Our results also show that resisting unethical behavior both requires and depletes self-control resources (Study 4). Taken together, our findings help to explain how otherwise ethical individuals predictably engage in unethical behavior.