University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business

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The Effects of the Dark Triad on Unethical Behavior

Author(s): Andrew Harrison, James Summers, Brian Mennecke

Status: Published
Year: 2016
Publication Name: Journal of Business Ethics, Page Number(s): 1-25


Abstract

This article uses behavioral theories to develop an ethical decision-making model that describes how psychological factors affect the development of unethical intentions to commit fraud. We evaluate the effects of the dark triad of personality traits (i.e., psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism) on fraud intentions and behaviors. We use a combination of survey results, an experiment, and structural equation modeling to empirically test our model. The theoretical insights demonstrate that psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism affect different parts of the unethical decision-making process. Narcissism motivates individuals to act unethically for their personal benefit and changes their perceptions of their abilities to successfully commit fraud. Machiavellianism motivates individuals not only to act unethically, but also alters perceptions about the opportunities that exist to deceive others. Psychopathy has a prominent effect on how individuals rationalize their fraudulent behaviors. Accordingly, we find that the dark triad elements act in concert as powerful psychological antecedents to fraud behaviors.


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