Big chairs create big cheats — Andy Yap

MIT Sloan Lecturer Andy Yap

MIT Sloan Lecturer Andy Yap

From Harvard Business Review

The research: In a series of experiments, Andy Yap and his colleagues examined the impact that people’s ergonomic environments had on their ethics. The studies tested whether being put into an expansive or a contracted posture would affect people’s honesty. The results showed that subjects in larger workspaces and seats, which encouraged expansive postures, were more likely than other subjects to pocket, rather than return, an overpayment for participating in the study, to cheat on a test, and to break the rules in a driving simulation game.

The challenge: Is the boss a jerk because of the size of his chair? Is that guy running a red light because he’s in a giant SUV? Professor Yap, defend your research.

Yap: The effect of large spaces, which allow people to expand their postures, was clear. In our first study, in which we deliberately overpaid people to see whether they would point out our error, 78% of the participants who were put into expansive postures kept the overpayment, while only 38% of those who were put into contractive postures did. And in a follow-up field study, in which we observed illegally parked cars in New York, we saw that when the size of a driver’s seat increased by one standard deviation from the mean, the probability that a car would be double-parked increased from 51% to 71%.

Read the full post at the Harvard Business Review.

Andy Yap is a Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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