Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
Male Pragmatism in Ethical Decision Making
- Author(s): Kray, Laura J.
- Haselhuhn, Michael P.
- et al.
Why do men have more lenient ethical standards than women? To address this question, we test the male pragmatism hypothesis, which posits that men rely on their social and achievement motivations to set ethical standards more so than women. Across two studies, motivation was both manipulated and measured before examining ethicality judgments. Study 1 manipulated identification with two parties in an ethical dilemma and found that men were more egocentric than women. Whereas men’s ethicality judgments were affected by the identification manipulation, women’s judgments were not. Study 2 examined whether implicit negotiation beliefs, which predict achievement motivations to either demonstrate or develop negotiating skill, predicted ethicality judgments and, if so, whether this relationship was moderated by gender. As hypothesized, fixed beliefs predicted lower ethical standards, particularly for men. In combination, these findings suggest men are more pragmatic in setting ethical standards than women.