Money: The Root of Evil?
What is it about money that leads people down morally ambiguous paths?
Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project
It’s been said that money is the root of all evil, but could simply being exposed to money-related words or images lead you down a path of immorality?
It is easy to vilify the Bernie Madoffs and Kenneth Lays of the world for their greedy ways, but a new study from the University of Utah and Harvard University contends that there might be a bit of Bernie in each of us.
Kristin Smith-Crowe, an associate professor at the University of Utah and co-author of the report, points out, “There may be things affecting our morality that we don’t realize are having an effect.” And so, an increasing amount of research has been conducted regarding the subconscious link between money and corruption in order to find out why even morally conscientious people may resort to cheating from time to time.
In the study, the results of which were published in the May issue of the publication Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes, researchers asked 324 participants to perform simple tasks that gave them subtle reminders of money in words or images. For example, the participant would be presented with money-related sentences such as “She spends money liberally” or neutral lines like “She walks on grass” while being shown images of either cash or a landscape. They were then tested on scenarios involving ethical dilemmas like using insider information about a business competitor, or whether they would take printer paper from the office supply room.
In each study, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the participants that had been exposed to money or images of money were significantly more likely to do the ethically dubious thing. Smith-Crowe explained to Business Insider, “It makes a lot of sense that greed would produce evil. But we were interested in the fact that maybe it’s not even love of money, but just the mere subtle exposure to the concept of money that, in and of itself, may also be corruption.”
Lest you finish reading this with a feeling of hopelessness, is it possible that the same thinking that led participants to make ethically questionable decisions could be used to generate the opposite? “Is the way we think of business the only way to think about it?” Smith-Crowe wonders, or “is it malleable, can it be expanded to include moral consideration? What sorts of decisions would be made if the business frame were altered?”
What do you think? Can money be used to lead people to make ethically responsible decisions, or will money only lead to evil? Weigh in here.