Chair of Economic Psychology & Leadership Ethics

Reseach Projects

DACH-Project Promoting Ethical Decision Making

The project focuses on a selected component of moral intelligence: individual decision-making competence. In the summer of 2021, we received the pleasant news that our transnational (Germany & Switzerland) and interdisciplinary (Business Psychology, Economics & Finance) research proposal was approved by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) (approximately 900,000 EUR). The main purpose of this project is, among other aspects, to examine the impact and effectiveness of various contemplation questions. In addition, a digital learning tool will be developed that will provide executives and employees with the opportunity to repeatedly practice decision-making using simple but meaningful contemplation questions and thus build decision-making competence and confidence. The project was launched in February 2022.

Selected publications and links:

Research Project Serious Moral Game

The project pursues the vision of providing executives and employees with the opportunity to repeatedly practice and thus promote ethical competencies (moral intelligence) with the help of digital technologies (serious game). The initial focus was on promoting moral sensitivity. Moral sensitivity is a building block of moral intelligence and refers to the ability to have a sense of moral values and empathy for others. While the game continues to be used in education and training and receives positive feedback from target groups (such as executives, students), we have conducted a comprehensive empirical study in which the effectiveness of the game was investigated and proven. The current game will serve as a baseline for further developments (see DACH-project).

Moral Courage

If employees and executives stand up for ethical values even in difficult situations and accept negative consequences for themselves, this is an indicator of the competence moral courage. This competence is a building block of moral intelligence and appears in a variety of situations in working life. It includes, among other actions, intervening when misconduct is observed, not following unethical instructions, and admitting one's own mistakes. At the Chair of Economic Psychology & Leadership Ethics, we have developed and validated a measuring instrument for moral courage that sheds light on the various facets of this competence. In addition, we address the question which individual and situational factors promote and impede moral courage in the workplace.

Corporate Ethical Culture

An important organizational driver for (un)ethical behavior in the workplace is the corporate ethical culture. This is also particularly important when it comes to the success of compliance and integrity ethics programs. In order to shed more light on this relationship, two new German-language instruments were developed and validated in several studies. The two new scales allow the assessment of relevant indicators of a corporate ethical culture and the rule- or value-based orientation of ethics programs. With the help of these instruments, it is possible to determine more precisely, for example, whether a company tends to rely on compliance- and/or integrity-oriented strategies, in what way these effectively reduce or even rather promote misconduct, and to what extent the dimensions of a corporate ethical culture can explain these effects. These insights help to develop targeted measures to make ethics programs more effective and, with the help of a corporate ethical culture, to prevent unethical behavior in companies and promote ethical behavior.

Research Project Corruption – Who Is Less Corrupt?

Corruption is still a widespread problem that causes economic, political as well as social damage. In a collaboration between the ESSEC Business School (France), the European University Viadrina (Germany) and our chair, we investigated which individuals are more resistant to corruption and why. The starting point of our collaboration was the observation that individuals - even in the same environment - differ greatly in their willingness to engage in corrupt behavior. Which individuals are those who resist corrupt behavior despite a corrupt environment and existing incentives to do so? The goal of a two-stage experimental study was to further investigate how individual values and norms are related to bribery and corruptibility. The results show that individuals who exhibit high levels of moral commitment are indeed not only significantly less likely to bribe, but also more resistant to bribery attempts, even if they miss out on real financial gains as a result.

Selected publications and links:

Determinants of Honesty in Economic Decisions

A central topic at the chair is the study of individual and situational determinants of dishonesty in economic and financial contexts (such as cheating, deceiving, lying, manipulating balance sheets), with a focus on decisions made by executives and investors. Questions and discussions on this topic remain high on the agenda in light of recurring scandals involving companies or prominent individuals. As part of interdisciplinary collaborations (Psychology & Finance), we used experimental studies to test, among other things, the hypothesis that at least some individuals are committed to the value of honesty and are therefore more willing to forgo monetary benefits. In general, we find that such individuals are more resistant to situational influences (such as financial incentives, social norms). We also examine the role of other situational influences on honesty, such as mental exhaustion or time pressure.

Research Project  Big Data in the Insurance Industry

In the course of the digital transformation, insurance companies are showing great interest in possible applications of big data including access to personalized data. One example close to reality includes car insurance, which involves the installation of a device that records driving behavior. Based on the generated data, the insurance company can elicit correlations between driving behavior and accident risk and offer the prospect of a reduction in insurance premiums to low-risk drivers. But there are other uses for big data. However, this also raises important ethical, legal and social questions. As part of a national research program of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), we investigated how insurance customers think about and react to the use of Big Data against the background of two theoretical approaches (Protected values, Contextual Integrity). The results show that not all possible uses of big data are accepted (even if financial benefits are promised), but on the contrary trigger rejection.

Time to decide

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