Honor, Integrity and Playing by the Rules are All Out of Style

Patrick Clark in the New York Observer:

Web_cheating_mark_hammermeister“The unethical tendency is a human universal,” said Paul Piff, a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. But not everyone bends and breaks the rules equally.

Mr. Piff’s research shows that the rich are more likely to cut off other drivers, or cheat in games of chance, and subjects who identified greed as a positive value were more likely to cheat. But greed isn’t the only factor. Creative people are more likely to cheat, he told us, as are the highly educated.

Unethical behavior seems to be driven by rank—the more status you have, the less dependent you’re likely to be on social relationships—and self-focus. Meanwhile, watching other people cheat changes our understanding of what’s socially acceptable. Successful people are more likely to cheat, increasing the chances that they’ll become still more successful. And, we suppose, increasing the chances that they’ll be surrounded by successful people who are more likely to cheat themselves.

“It’s something called social proof, and it’s one of the strongest forces in society,” said Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University and the author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, a book-length work on the motivations for cheating.

Which might explain why it’s so rare to find a lone lawbreaker. If one Libor submitter was rigging rates for traders, it’s only natural that the others would feel entitled to a little bit of Bollinger.

More here.