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The Detrimental Effects of Oxytocin-Induced Conformity on Dishonesty in Competition

Journal article
Authors G. Aydogan
A. Jobst
K. D'Ardenne
N. Muller
Martin G. Kocher
Published in Psychological Science
Volume 28
Issue 6
Pages 751-759
ISSN 0956-7976
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Economics
Pages 751-759
Language en
Links doi.org/10.1177/0956797617695100
Keywords oxytocin, dishonesty, lying aversion, hormones, behavioral ethics, behavior, humans, lies, people, work, Psychology
Subject categories Psychology

Abstract

Justifications may promote unethical behavior because they constitute a convenient loophole through which people can gain from immoral behavior and preserve a positive self-image at the same time. A justification that is widely used is rooted in conformity: Unethical choices become more permissible because one's peers are expected to make the same unethical choices. In the current study, we tested whether an exogenous alteration of conformity led to a lower inclination to adhere to a widely accepted norm (i.e., honesty) under the pressure of competition. We took advantage of the well-known effects of intranasally applied oxytocin on affiliation, in-group conformity, and in-group favoritism in humans. We found that conformity was enhanced by oxytocin, and this enhancement had a detrimental effect on honesty in a competitive environment but not in a noncompetitive environment. Our findings contribute to recent evidence showing that competition may lead to unethical behavior and erode moral values.

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