Are You Ethical?

We read with great interest a recent study in The Journal of Experimental Psychology (actually we read about it in the London Times which does not sound nearly as impressive).

The study found that British children may be more moral than their US counterparts according to an experiment that found they were far less likely to cheat in a trivia game (before we go on – we do wonder whether this story would have made it into the British media if the findings had been the other way around).

Six and seven year olds from Sheffield were significantly more reluctant to look at the answer to a quiz when forbidden to do so than children in the US had been in previous studies.

A quarter of the 114 British children who were told not to look at the answer written on the back of the final card in a trivia test decided to cheat to win a packet of crayons.  In American versions of the experiment, up to 70% of the children broke the rule.

The study suggested that this could be because the British children tended to see cheating as a moral issue whereas Americans regarded it as more of a “social convention”.

The relevance of this study is to do put pressure on American children but rather to seek to extrapolate these findings to the control environment of a multi- national organisation.

How does an organisation set a standard when one employee constituency sees it as a role to be broken or not and the other sees the issue before them as a moral conundrum?

The answer isn’t so much in the rule itself but in the education provided by the company.

In the child study would the outcome have been different in both locations if the consequences of cheating had been articulated to the participants before the study commenced?

We suspect it might have been.


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