Short horizons and tempting situations: Lack of continuity to our future selves leads to unethical decision making and behavior.
People who feel continuity with their future selves are more likely to behave in ethically responsible
ways as compared to people who lack continuity with their future selves. We find that individual
differences in perceived similarity to one’s future self predicts tolerance of unethical business decisions
(Studies 1a and 1b), and that the consideration of future consequences mediates the extent to which
people regard inappropriate negotiation strategies as unethical (Study 2). We reveal that low future
self-continuity predicts unethical behavior in the form of lies, false promises, and cheating (Studies 3
and 4), and that these relationships hold when controlling for general personality dimensions and trait
levels of self-control (Study 4). Finally, we establish a causal relationship between future self-continuity
and ethical judgments by showing that when people are prompted to focus on their future self (as
opposed to the future), they express more disapproval of unethical behavior (Study 5).
Ersner-Hershfield, Hal, Taya Cohen and Leigh Thompson. 2012. Short horizons and tempting situations: Lack of continuity to our future selves leads to unethical decision making and behavior.. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 117: 298-310.