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Washington, Dec. 11: Making people think about money makes them likelier to cheat, but priming them to think about time seems to strengthen their moral compass, according to a study.

The research, conducted by psychological scientists Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Cassie Mogilner of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, shows that implicitly activating the concept of time cuts cheating behavior by encouraging people to engage in self-reflection.

Gino said that less attention is given to the more prevalent 'ordinary' unethical behavior carried out by people who value and care about morality but behave unethically when faced with an opportunity to cheat.

Across four experiments, the researchers had participants complete various tasks - including word scrambles, searches for song lyrics, and counting tasks - designed to implicitly activate the concept of money, time, or something neutral.

In the first experiment, 87.5 per cent of the participants primed to think of money cheated on the puzzles, compared to only 66.7 per cent of those participants primed with neutral words. They also cheated to a greater extent, artificially boosting their scores by a greater margin than the other participants.

Thinking about time, on the other hand, seemed to prevent people from cheating: Only 42.4 per cent of the participants primed with the concept of time overstated their performance on the task.

Data from subsequent experiments showed that the link between money and cheating, and between time and cheating, could be explained by self-reflection (or lack thereof).

Priming the concept of time seems to lead people "to notice that how they spend their time sums up to their life as a whole, encouraging them to act in ways they can be proud of when holding up this mirror to who they are," the researchers write.

The research has been published in journal Psychological Science. (ANI)

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