The slippery slope: How small ethical transgressions pave the way for larger future transgressions.
Welsh, David T.; Ordóñez, Lisa D.; Snyder, Deirdre G.; Christian, Michael S.
Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 100(1), Jan 2015, 114-127.
Many recent corporate scandals have been described as resulting from a slippery slope in which a series of small infractions gradually increased over time (e.g., McLean & Elkind, 2003). However, behavioral ethics research has rarely considered how unethical behavior unfolds over time. In this study, we draw on theories of self-regulation to examine whether individuals engage in a slippery slope of increasingly unethical behavior. First, we extend Bandura’s (1991, 1999) social-cognitive theory by demonstrating how the mechanism of moral disengagement can reduce ethicality over a series of gradually increasing indiscretions. Second, we draw from recent research connecting regulatory focus theory and behavioral ethics (Gino & Margolis, 2011) to demonstrate that inducing a prevention focus moderates this mediated relationship by reducing one’s propensity to slide down the slippery slope. We find support for the developed model across 4 multiround studies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)