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Published in: Journal of Business Ethics 3/2019

21-09-2017 | Original Paper

The Unwitting Accomplice: How Organizations Enable Motivated Reasoning and Self-Serving Behavior

Authors: Laura J. Noval, Morela Hernandez

Published in: Journal of Business Ethics | Issue 3/2019

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Abstract

In this article, we demonstrate that individuals use motivated reasoning to convince themselves that their self-serving behavior is justified, which in turn affects the distribution of resources in business situations. Specifically, we explore how ambiguous contextual cues and individual beliefs can jointly form motivated reasoning. Across two experimental studies, we find that whereas individual ideologies that endorse status hierarchies (i.e., social dominance orientation) can strengthen the relationship between contextual ambiguity and motivated reasoning, individual beliefs rooted in fairness and equality (i.e., moral identity) can weaken it. Our findings contribute to person–situation theories of business ethics and provide evidence that two ubiquitous factors in business organizations—contextual ambiguity and social dominance orientation—give rise to motivated reasoning, enabling decision makers to engage in self-serving distributions of resources.
Footnotes
1
Prior research (Diekmann et al. 1997) confirms that people, in the absence of motivation, see both of these conditions as equivalent in terms of performance.
 
2
Given that there was no significant interaction of the Need Condition with contextual ambiguity in Study 1, we did not manipulate the needs of the other party in Study 2.
 
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Metadata
Title
The Unwitting Accomplice: How Organizations Enable Motivated Reasoning and Self-Serving Behavior
Authors
Laura J. Noval
Morela Hernandez
Publication date
21-09-2017
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Journal of Business Ethics / Issue 3/2019
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3698-9

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