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If You Can't See the Forest for the Trees, You Might Just Cut Down the Forest: The Perils of Forced Choice on "Seemingly" Unethical Decision-Making

Generously Funded By:

Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC; Standard Grant #820-2008-3030)

Meet the research team:

Michael Wood:Assistant Professor of Environment and Business, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo

Theodore Noseworthy: Associate Professor of Marketing and Consumer Studies, College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph

Scott Colwell: Associate Professor of Marketing and Consumer Studies, College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph

Project description

This project explored the effect of psychological distance on ethical decision-making. Results from two studies revealed that managers tend to pick higher-risk options when forced to choose between competing alternatives to complex situations. However, when managers are not forced to choose, they tend to reflect more and select options with fewer negative consequences. Therefore, simply giving managers the option not to choose may be one of the most powerful tools for combating high-risk or unethical decision-making.

Research activities and outputs:

Referred Journal Article:

  • Wood, Michael O., Theodore J. Noseworthy, & Scott R. Colwell, “If You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees, You Might Just Cut Down the Forest: The Perils of Forced Choice on “Seemingly” Unethical Decision-Making”. Journal of Business Ethics (DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1606-x).

Referred Conference Presentation:

  • Wood, Michael O., Theodore J. Noseworthy, & Scott R. Colwell (2012), “Psychological Distance and Seemingly Unethical Decision-Making,” Academy of Management Annual Meeting, (August) Boston.

Invited Presentations:

  • “Seeing the Forest for the Trees.” LNC Intern Seminar - Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management, University of Western Ontario, February 2013.
  • “The Role of Psychological Distance in Enabling Socially Irresponsible Decision-Making.” I-O Psychology Research Seminar, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, March 2011. Presented by co-author Colwell.

NEWS RELEASES:

  • http://www.uoguelph.ca/news/2013/01/forcing_choice.html https://uwaterloo.ca/environment/news/seeds-newest-faculty-member-recognized-business-ethics-study

IN THE NEWS:

  • Business News Daily: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3821-new-study-finds-best-decisions-are-ones-not-forced-into.html
  • Science Direct: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130123094740.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fmind_brain%2Fpsychology+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Mind+%26+Brain+News+--+Psychology%29
  • Asia News International: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/forcing-choice-may-hamper-decisionmaking/1064736/
  • Express.be: http://www.express.be/business/nl/hr/forceren-van-beslissing-leidt-tot-risicovolle-oplossingen/185003.htm
  • Complete Well-Being: http://completewellbeing.com/wellbeing-news/not-forcing-managers-to-pick-from-alternatives-makes-them-choose-better/