According to the article Patterns of neural activity associated with honest and dishonest moral decisions in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “What makes people behave honestly when confronted with opportunities for dishonest gain? Research on the interplay between controlled and automatic processes in decision making suggests 2 hypotheses.”
These two hypotheses are:
• "According to the “Will” hypothesis, honesty results from the active resistance of temptation, comparable to the controlled cognitive processes that enable the delay of reward."
• "According to the “Grace” hypothesis, honesty results from the absence of temptation, consistent with research emphasizing the determination of behavior by the presence or absence of automatic processes."
The authors of the study—Joshua D. Green and Joseph M. Paxon (both from the Department of Psychology at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)—asked volunteers to wager money based on a computerized coin flipping (heads or tails) game.
In one scenario, the subjects had to make their bet before the coin was flipped. So, they did not have a chance to cheat—the decision was made BEFORE the coin toss.
However, in another case they were asked to state their decision AFTER the coin was flipped.
This scenario allowed the subject to lie and, in the process, make material gains—that is, win money dishonestly. And, this scenario also allowed honest people to win or lose money honestly—all based on the toss of the coin.
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