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DISHONESTY IN THE NAME OF EQUITY

ABSTRACT—Under what conditions do people act dishonestly
to help or hurt others? We addressed this question
by examining the influence of a previously overlooked
factor—the beneficiary or victim of dishonest acts. In two
experiments, we randomly paired participants and manipulated
their wealth levels through an initial lottery. We
then observed how inequity between partners influenced
the likelihood of one dishonestly helping or hurting the
other, while varying the financial incentives for dishonest
behavior. The results show that financial self-interest
cannot fully explain people’s tendency to dishonestly help
or hurt others. Rather, such dishonesty is influenced by
emotional reactions towealth-based inequity, even when the
dishonesty bears a personal financial cost. Envy evoked by
negative inequity led to hurting behavior, whereas guilt
induced by positive inequity motivated helping behavior.
Finally, inequity between the partner and third parties
triggered dishonest helping through empathy with the
partner.

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