Ethical Manoeuvring: Why People Avoid Both Major and Minor Lies

Shaul Shalvi, Michel J.J. Handgraaf, Carsten K.W. De Dreu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


This research examines whether and why people manoeuvre their unethical behaviour so as to maximize material gains at a minimal psychological cost. Employing an anonymous die-under-cup paradigm, we asked people to report the outcome of a private die roll and gain money as a function of their reports. Supporting self-concept maintenance theory, results showed that people avoid both major lies (i.e. over-reporting the highest possible outcome) and minor lies (yielding little material gain), but did over-report intermediate outcomes when this implied a substantial increase compared to a walk-away value. Results suggest that lying is psychologically costly. We propose that organizations allowing freedom of choice while narrowing the available ways to unethically boost personal profit should see a decrease in unethical behaviour among their employees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S16-S27
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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