Overall, people want to behave ethically. In some cases, temptation steers them away from ethical behavior. In other cases, purely ethical behavior is not possible, because the same behavior entails both ethical and unethical consequences. For example, collaboration with others may require people to be dishonest. We suggest that to justify their choices in such cases, people engage in a moral calculus in which they consider ethical values and behaviors as moral currencies, which can be traded for each other. This view is consistent with previous accounts that highlight the licensing effect that ethical actions can have on subsequent unethical actions when ethical and unethical actions are temporally distant and independent from each other, and also with cases where the same action has both positive and negative ethical value. We highlight the case of corrupt collaboration, where people often forgo honesty in favor of self- and group-serving collaboration, as one where moral currencies provide a useful framework for analysis and generation of research questions.
- Moral currency
- Moral licensing