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21-09-2017 | Original Paper

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

Journal:
Journal of Business Ethics
Authors:
Laura J. Noval, Morela Hernandez

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.

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