Don't remind me: When explicit and implicit moral reminders enhance dishonesty
Jun Zhaoa,b,1, Zhiqiang Donga,b,1, Rongjun Yuc,⁎
a School of Economics and Management, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China
b Scientific Laboratory of Economic Behaviors, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China
c Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Moral reminder Signaling theory Cheating
Moral reminders influence cheating behavior by increasing the saliency of moral values and standards that people adhere to. Previous studies on implicit and explicit moral reminders indicate that the presence of these moral reminders tends to reduce dishonesty in people. Results from our three experiments (n = 395) challenge these findings by demonstrating that exposure to explicit moral reminders consistently led to significant cheating in a dice-rolling experiment. Cheating behavior was particularly enhanced when participants received the ex- plicit reminder to “be honest”. Implicit moral reminder to introspect about the moral values also promoted lying. However, an implicit reminder to read a classic story about honest had no effect. Reasons for these results can be explained by signaling theory, and implications for selecting reminder types are discussed.