The motivation and inhibition of breaking the rules: Personal values structures predict unethicality

Gilad Feldman, Melody Manchi Chao, Jiing-Lih Farh, Anat Bardi

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We theorized and tested the relationship of personal value systems with unethical attitudes and behavior. Results from three studies using 16 diverse multi-national samples (N = 107,087) demonstrated the complexity of motivations underlying unethicality. Across contexts and cultures, for attitudes (Study 1 meta-analysis) and behaviors in the lab (Study 2) and in real-life (Study 3), we consistently found that the values theory circumplex structure predicted the inhibition and motivation of unethicality. Unethicality was positively associated with self-enhancement values and negatively associated with self-transcendence and conservation values. However, self-transcendence and conservation values were associated with the inhibition of different types of unethicality. The relationship of openness-to-change values with unethicality was generally positive but the effect size varied depending on context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Early online date9 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Personal values
  • basic motivations
  • unethicality
  • unethical behavior
  • harm

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