Bringing the Logic of Appropriateness into the Lab: An Experimental Study of Behavior and Cognition



The logic of consequences and the logic of appropriateness have long been central to understanding behavior in organizations.  However, scholarly work on the logic of appropriateness has consisted mostly of conceptual clarification and ex post explanation of observed behavior.  In an effort to facilitate the study of the logic of appropriateness through experimental methods, this paper introduces an experimental paradigm that allows for the manipulation of decision logic as an independent variable.  Using this paradigm, 710 participants played four iconic behavioral games in which profitability and ethics are both at play and, sometimes, at odds: Prisoners’ Dilemma, Dictator Game, Ultimatum Game, and Trust Game.  Our manipulation generated behavioral data, as well as qualitative data about participants’ considerations while deciding according to each logic.  The behavioral data show that, compared to participants employing a logic of consequences, participants employing a logic of appropriateness rejected more unfair offers in an Ultimatum Game and were more generous when reciprocating trusting behavior in a Trust Game.  In all other cases, behavior between the two logics was not significantly different.  An analysis of the qualitative data suggests that a logic of consequences increased participants’ focus on monetary concerns, whereas a logic of appropriateness increased participants’ focus on moral concerns. Taken together, these data provide new insights into when, how, and why the two logics result in behavioral and cognitive differences.  We conclude by considering directions for future research that we see as particularly amenable to study using the experimental manipulation presented here.  

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