Honesty Requires Time (and Lack of Justifications)


Recent research suggests that refraining from cheating in tempting situations requires self-control, which indicates that serving self-interest is an automatic tendency. However, evidence also suggests that people cheat to the extent that they can justify their unethical behavior to themselves. To merge these different lines of research, we adopted a dual-system approach that distinguished between the intuitive and deliberative cognitive systems. We suggest that for people to restrict their dishonest behavior, they need to have enough time and no justifications for self-serving unethical behavior. We employed an anonymous die-under-cup task in which participants privately rolled a die and reported the outcome to determine their pay. We manipulated the time available for participants to report their outcome (short vs. ample). The results of two experiments support our prediction, revealing that the dark side of people’s automatic self-serving tendency may be overcome when time to decide is ample and private justifications for dishonesty are not available. © The Author(s) 2012.

Psychological Science