Justifications Shape Ethical Blind Spots

Andrea Pittarello, Margarita Leib, Tom Gordon-Hecker, Shaul Shalvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To some extent, unethical behavior results from people’s limited attention to ethical considerations, which results in an ethical blind spot. Here, we focus on the role of ambiguity in shaping people’s ethical blind spots, which in turn lead to their ethical failures. We suggest that in ambiguous settings, individuals’ attention shifts toward tempting information, which determines the magnitude of their lies. Employing a novel ambiguous-dice paradigm, we asked participants to report the outcome of the die roll appearing closest to the location of a previously presented fixation cross on a computer screen; this outcome would determine their pay. We varied the value of the die second closest to the fixation cross to be either higher (i.e., tempting) or lower (i.e., not tempting) than the die closest to the fixation cross. Results of two experiments revealed that in ambiguous settings, people’s incorrect responses were self-serving. Tracking participants’ eye movements demonstrated that people’s ethical blind spots are shaped by increased attention toward tempting information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)794-804
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - 6 Jun 2015


  • ambiguity
  • attention allocation
  • dishonesty
  • ethical decision making
  • eye movements
  • morality
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistered
  • self-deception

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Justifications Shape Ethical Blind Spots'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this