Dishonesty in self-report of copies made: Moral relativity and the Xerox machine

Goldstone, R. L., & Chin, C. (1993). Dishonesty in self-report of copies made: Moral relativity and the Xerox machine. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 14, 19-32.

This study involved noninvasive observation of copy-machine use at a university institution. Patrons` self-reports of copies were compared to the actual number of copies made. Results indicate a systematic underreporting of actual copies. Intermediate-level dishonesty is common place, whereby patrons underestimate the number of copies made but refrain from profit-maximizing dishonesty even in the absence of an external monitor. The percentage of copies unreported is approximately constant over different copy job sizes. There are strong self-imposed constraints on the level of allowed dishonesty. However, there is an increased tendency for intermediate-level dishonesty as copy job size increases. Nonreporting of copies and correct reporting of copies are both common for small jobs. There is an empirical dissociation between the prevalence and the degree of dishonest behaviors, interpretable in terms of different motivations that arise when financial gains are high and low. The results are also diagnostic in assessing the nature of the tradeoff between the competing motivations to maximize financial profits and to behave honestly.