The main objective of the proposed research is to enhance our understanding of the critical role of institutions in affecting moral transgression. I aim at identifying institutional mechanisms operating in markets and organisations that promote immoral outcomes. The key question this project seeks to explain is why “ordinary” people endowed with a given moral conception engage in behaviours they would generally object to. While the focus is on immoral behaviour, the reverse inference is always intended as well: if we understand mechanisms that promote immoral behaviour, we can build on this knowledge to design institutions that limit those outcomes.
The importance of studying morality is self-evident. Harmful outcomes resulting from market interactions or organisational design include, e.g. detrimental working conditions, suffering of animals that are kept in inhumane husbandry, or environmental damage. The critical role of institutions has also been pointed out in most extreme cases such as the organisation of the Holocaust.
Morality is an elusive term but there exists an academic common sense that immoral behaviour involves harming others in an unjustified way. It is this definition of immoral behaviour that organises the project as reflected in the suggested experimental paradigms. The two main institutional categories I will consider are markets and underlying market mechanisms (WP1) and organisational mechanisms, in particular the role of pivotality, hierarchy, division of labour, delegation, and framing (WP2). In all experiments I causally identify the role of institutions by comparing the distribution of moral values in a baseline condition to the one arising from specific institutional set-ups. WP 3 will complement the analysis from a different angle, studying (i) individual determinants of immoral behaviour, (ii) moral development in children, (iii) and the effects of a randomised intervention (mentoring program) on moral judgment in children.
Call for proposal
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Funding SchemeERC-AG - ERC Advanced Grant