Gino and Mogilner
note "It seems that a day does not go by without some unethical behavior by a politician, movie star, professional athlete, or high-ranking executive making the headlines. Although less sensational, revelations of cheating have also crept into the sciences, and continue to show up in classrooms, businesses, and marriages."
They proceed to reflect on unethical behavior in people who also strive to maintain a positive self-concept, with morality being central to peoples' self-image. They:
...focus on two triggers that may influence self-reflection and are ubiquitous enough in the environment to have a chance at instigating a widespread effect on unethical behavior: money and time...We specifically predicted that priming people to think about time, rather than money, would lead them to behave more ethically by encouraging them to reflect on who they are and making them more conscious of how they conduct themselves so as to maintain a positive self-image. We tested this hypothesis across four experiments in which we primed participants to think about time or money and observed their tendencies to cheat for monetary or personal gain.
In a first experiment they primed participants with money, time, or neither and then completed a numbers game in which they had the opportunity to cheat by overstating their performance, thereby taking unearned money. Participants primed in the money condition were more likely to cheat.
The second experiment used the numbers game with time or money primes but half the participants were told “This game is an intelligence test that is designed to assess your likelihood to be successful in the future.” and the other half told “This game is a personality test that is designed to assess what type of person you are.” As in the first experiment, participants threw their actual matrix work sheets into a recycle bin, so that they believed they could overreport their performance (i.e., cheat) without getting caught. "In actuality, as in Experiment 1, we were able to match participants’ work sheets with the collection slips on which they reported their performance."
The result: "when the game was framed as an intelligence test did thinking about money lead to greater cheating than thinking about time. When the game was framed as a personality test, there was no difference in cheating between the money and time conditions.
A third experiment manipulated self-reflection with a mirror to find that when self-reflection was triggered through the use of a mirror, participants primed with money behaved the same way as those primed with time.
The fourth experiment suggested that "priming time reduces cheating by increasing self-reflection, and priming money increases cheating by lowering self-reflection. By measuring self-reflection directly through self-reports, this experiment provided further evidence for the hypothesized role of self-reflection as the psychological mechanism linking time, money, and morality."
Here is the abstract of the article:
Money, a resource that absorbs much daily attention, seems to be involved in much unethical behavior, which suggests that money itself may corrupt. This research examined a way to offset such potentially deleterious effects—by focusing on time, a resource that tends to receive less attention than money but is equally ubiquitous in daily life. Across four experiments, we examined whether shifting focus onto time can salvage individuals’ ethicality. We found that implicitly activating the construct of time, rather than money, leads individuals to behave more ethically by cheating less. We further found that priming time reduces cheating by making people reflect on who they are. Implications for the use of time primes in discouraging dishonesty are discussed.