Does Honesty Result from Moral will or Moral Grace? Why Moral Identity Matters

Xu, Z.X.; Ma, H.K.

Journal of Business Ethics 127(2): 371-384

2014


ISSN/ISBN: 0167-4544
Accession: 083218448

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Abstract
Does honesty result from the absence of temptation or the active resistance of temptation? The "will'' hypothesis suggests that honesty results from the active resistance of temptation, while the "grace" hypothesis argues that honesty results from the absence of temptation. We examined reaction time and measured the cheating behavior of individuals who had a chance to lie for money. In study 1, we tested the "grace" hypothesis that honesty results from the absence of temptation and found a priming effect of moral constructs on increasing honest behavior. In study 2, we investigated the individual's moral identity in the same context, articulating different mechanisms that lead people to behave ethically. The result confirms that the "grace" hypothesis was valid for people who had a high moral identity, while the "will" hypothesis was accurate for individuals who had a low moral identity.