A recent study reveals that with success, winners tend to become more dishonest.
Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar
Have you ever won a competition?
If yes, then you must be dishonest, according to a new study.
Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have determined that people who win a competition are more likely to cheat or act dishonestly in the future.
Amos Schurr said that they already know that some politicians and business executives will often resort to unethical means to win, for example the recent Volkswagen scandal, adding that the research was focused on who is more likely to subsequently engage in unrelated unethical behaviors - winners or losers?
The researchers found that after a competition is over, winners behave more dishonestly than losers in an unrelated subsequent task.
Furthermore, the subsequent unethical behavior effect seems to depend on winning, rather than on mere success.
These findings suggest that the way in which people measure success affects their honesty.
When success is measured by social comparison, as is the case when winning a competition, dishonesty increases, Schurr explains.
He noted "When success does not involve social comparison, as is the case when meeting a set goal, defined standard or recalling a personal achievement, dishonesty decreases."
The researchers concluded that a greater tendency toward unethicality by winners is likely to impede social mobility and equality, exacerbating disparities in society rather than alleviating them.
Finding ways to predict and overcome these tendencies may be a fruitful topic for the future study.
The study is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.