Groups of people are more likely to be dishonest than individuals, especially when money is at stake, a study suggests. The study found even individuals who have a proven track record of honest behaviour are no match for the potentially negative influences present in a group dynamic. Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich in Germany studied 273 participants in both individual and group situations. Participants, who were paid for their role in the study, were shown video of dice rolls and asked to report the number shown on the die.
The higher the reported die roll, the larger the monetary compensation. Participants were evaluated on an individual basis, and in two group settings: one in which all members of the group must report the same die roll to receive a payoff, and another in which members do not have to report the same die roll to receive a payoff. In the group settings, members were able to communicate with each other via a chat feature. They found that of the 78 groups that participated in the study, arguments for dishonesty were explicitly mentioned in 51 per cent of the group chats. Of the messages that were exchanged among group members, 43.4 per cent argued for dishonest reporting, while only 15.6 per cent consisted of arguments for honesty. The team also noted that the number of individuals in each group who had exhibited dishonest behaviour in the individual portion of the study had no real impact on these results, as dishonesty occurred even in groups where all members had previously responded honestly. "We observed that groups lie significantly more than individuals when group members face mutual financial gain and have to coordinate an action in order to realise that financial gain," said Martin G Kocher from Ludwig- Maximilians-University of Munich. The ability for group members to exchange and discuss potential justifications for their dishonest behaviour can create an overall shift in the group's beliefs of what constitutes moral behaviour, researchers said. This allows them to establish a new norm regarding what does or does not constitute dishonest behaviour, they said. The study was published in the journal Management Science.
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