Unable to Resist the Temptation to Tell the Truth or to Lie for the Organization? Identification Makes the Difference

  • Carolin BaurEmail author
  • Roman Soucek
  • Ulrich Kühnen
  • Roy F. Baumeister
Original Paper


Previous research indicates that the depletion of self-regulatory resources can promote unethical behavior that benefits the self. Extending this literature, we focus on norm-transgressing behavior that is intended to primarily benefit others. In particular, we predicted a differing effect of self-regulatory resource depletion on dishonesty that benefits one’s group, depending on the degree of identification with the group. Following a dual process approach, we argue that if identification with the group is strong, then people may have an automatic inclination to benefit their group even perhaps by lying. In contrast, if identification with the group is weak, then the default, uncontrolled impulse may be to tell the truth. Accordingly, identification with the social group should interact with self-regulatory resource depletion in predicting group-benefiting dishonesty. Focusing on pro-organizational dishonesty, we tested our hypotheses in one field study with 1269 employees and in one experimental study with 71 university students. As predicted, the results revealed a highly significant interaction of organizational identification and self-control strength: Depletion of self-regulatory resources increased the level of pro-organizational dishonesty among those who identify highly with the organization, but decreased the level of such behavior among those who identify less.


Self-regulatory resources Organizational identification Pro-organizational dishonesty Self-control Unethical behavior 



Special thanks go to Guido Möllering, Franziska Deutsch, and Karina J. Lloyd for helpful discussions and comments on conception and design.


This research was partially funded by a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS) [Grant Number: GSC 263]. The DFG had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolin Baur
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roman Soucek
    • 2
  • Ulrich Kühnen
    • 3
  • Roy F. Baumeister
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS)University of Bremen and Jacobs University BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.School of Business, Economics and SocietyFriedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-NürnbergNurembergGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and MethodsJacobs University BremenBremenGermany
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  5. 5.School of PsychologyUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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