Mendoza School of Business

Psychology Of Fraud: Why Good People Do Bad Things

Published: May 1, 2012 / Author: Chana Spiegel

The following is an article in NPR that quotes Management Professor Ann Tenbrunsel about what people do when facing ethical decisions. To read the entire article visit: Psychology Of Fraud: Why Good People Do Bad Things

Enron, Worldcom, Bernie Madoff, the subprime mortgage crisis.

Over the past decade or so, news stories about unethical behavior have been a regular feature on TV, a long, discouraging parade of misdeeds marching across our screens. And in the face of these scandals, psychologists and economists have been slowly reworking how they think about the cause of unethical behavior.

In general, when we think about bad behavior, we think about it being tied to character: Bad people do bad things. But that model, researchers say, is profoundly inadequate.


There is, she says, a common misperception that at moments like this, when people face an ethical decision, they clearly understand the choice that they are making.

“We assume that they can see the ethics and are consciously choosing not to behave ethically,” Tenbrunsel says.


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