Don't remind me: When explicit and implicit moral reminders enhance dishonesty

Jun Zhao, Zhiqiang Dong, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Moral reminders influence cheating behavior by increasing the saliency of moral values and standards that people adhere to. Previous studies on implicit and explicit moral reminders indicate that the presence of these moral reminders tends to reduce dishonesty in people. Results from our three experiments (n = 395) challenge these findings by demonstrating that exposure to explicit moral reminders consistently led to significant cheating in a dice-rolling experiment. Cheating behavior was particularly enhanced when participants received the explicit reminder to “be honest”. Implicit moral reminder to introspect about the moral values also promoted lying. However, an implicit reminder to read a classic story about honest had no effect. Reasons for these results can be explained by signaling theory, and implications for selecting reminder types are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103895
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cheating
  • Moral reminder
  • Signaling theory


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