Accountability for consequential decisions: Justifying ethical judgments to audiences

  • Pennington J
  • Schlenker B
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College students believed that they were judges in a real cheating case (in actuality, it was fictitious) under adjudication Iri a student honor court. Participants recommended harsher punishment after being led to believe that they would explain their decisions in a face-to-face meeting with (a) an official from the honor court, as compared to a meeting with the student or no anticipated meeting (Experiment 1), or (b) the professor who brought the charge of cheating, as compared to a meeting with the student (Experiment 2). These effects occurred even when participants wrote their decisions after learning that the anticipated meeting was canceled. The salient audience thus seemed to induce shifts in perspective or evaluative orientation during decision making, and not simply reporting shifts designed to please the audience.

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  • John Pennington

  • Barry R. Schlenker

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