Regulating “Good” People in Subtle Conflicts of Interest Situations

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Growing recognition in both the psychological and management literature of the concept of “good people” has caused a paradigm shift in our understanding of wrongful behavior: Wrongdoings that were previously assumed to be based on conscious choice—that is, deliberate decisions—are often the product of intuitive processes that prevent people from recognizing the wrongfulness of their behavior. Several leading scholars have dubbed this process as an ethical “blind spot.” This study explores the main implications of the good people paradigm on the regulation of employees’ conflicts of interest. In two experiments, we examined the efficacy of traditional deterrence- and morality-based interventions in encouraging people to maintain their professional integrity and objectivity at the cost of their own self-interest. Results demonstrate that while the manipulated conflict was likely to “corrupt” people under intuitive/automatic mindset (Experiment 1), explicit/deliberative mechanisms (both deterrence- and morality-based) had a much larger constraining effect overall on participants’ judgment than did implicit measures, with no differences between deterrence and morality (Experiment 2). The findings demonstrate how little is needed to compromise the employees’ ethical integrity, but they also suggest that a modest explicit/deliberative intervention can easily prevent much of the wrongdoing that may otherwise result.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-83
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2019


  • Behavioral ethics
  • Conflict of interest
  • Deterrence and legitimacy
  • Regulating ethical behavior
  • Unethical behavior

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • Business and International Management


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