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Competing Under Oath: Can Honesty Pledges Prevent Cheating In Competitive Environments?
Employees frequently compete amongst themselves for promotions, recognition, or bonuses, and often act dishonestly to increase their chances of winning. Honesty pledges could reduce such dishonesty. However, past studies only examined honesty pledges when there was no competition, which could reduce or even negate the effects of pledges. In three experiments, we apply honesty pledges to competitive and non-competitive settings, to find that pledges remain effective in reducing cheating behavior under highly competitive (Study 1) and moderately competitive contexts (Studies 2 & 3). Moreover, this effect is not crowded if a sanction (fine) is added to the honesty pledge (Studies 2 & 3). Honesty pledges are also effective among people who tend to cheat more, due to low task-related ability and people that overestimate their own task-related ability (Study 3). Thus, pledges could curb dishonesty in organizations, even under competitive contexts, without the downsides of harsher enforcement.