Banking culture primes people to cheat

Posted on November 22, 2014

In the latest study, published online today by Nature, Maréchal and his colleagues enlisted the help of 128 employees from a large international bank. At the start of the tests, half the participants were quizzed about their jobs and their company, to prompt them to think of their identity as bank employees. The other half answered questions about their hobbies.

The participants were then asked to toss a coin ten times, unwatched by the researchers, and to report the outcome. They could earn money if they reported flipping more heads than tails - and up to US$200 if they reported flipping all heads or all trails.

The first group reported flipping heads 58.2% of the time - significantly higher than would be expected by chance alone. The control group reported tossing 51.6% heads.

The team tried to replicate the pattern in other groups of people - for example, priming students to think about banking. But they did not see the same effect on the participants' honesty levels. The results show that this banking-related priming effect seems to be specific to people who work as bank employees, suggesting that the culture of the banking sector is to blame.

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Source material from Nature

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