PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Almost everyone has experienced this feeling at least once before. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve won something and according to a new study, people who win in competitions are more likely to behave unethically (i.e., cheat, lie, steal) in the future.
Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem tackled the topic using a study composed of 86 college students.
The study surveyed the students in two games. The first was an estimation game on a computer, the second used cups and dice. The researchers found the students who won in the first game were more likely to cheat by falsifying the number that appeared on rolled dice in the second game.
“We already know that some politicians and business executives will often resort to unethical means to win, for example the recent Volkswagen scandal,” explains Dr. Amos Schurr, a lecturer in BGU’s Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management and member of the University’s Decision Making and Economic Psychology Center. “Our research was focused on who is more likely to subsequently engage in unrelated unethical behaviors – winners or losers?”
Winners, according to the study. Researchers attributed the dishonest behavior to several possible psychological traits, particularly a sense of entitlement.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.