Gino and Mogilner’s (2014) Hypothesis | Critical Review

04 Apr 2018

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Critical Review of Focus Paper: Assessing the credibility of Gino and Mogilner’s (2014) hypothesis and applications

  • Joanna Huang


The focus paper by Gino and Mogilner hypothesises that the reason for previously witnessed relationships between time, money and morality is due to the mediator, self-reflection. Gino and Mogilner (2014) operationalise the construct of morality to measure the subsequent cheating in participants through controlled laboratory experiments. The methodology employed in the paper uses validated and reliable techniques to maintain internal validity (Wicklund and Duval, 1971). In addition, the paper controls and removes possible confounds that may impact the consistency of the results to improve internal reliability. However, the applicability of Gino and Mogilner’s (2014) findings are limited by the controlled laboratory conditions which reduce external validity. Greater applications of this study can be found in alternate research directions regarding the relationship between time, money and morality.

Main body

The nature of morality and its determinant is a long debated and theorised topic; many experimental investigations in morality attempt to produce supporting evidence for hypothesised relationships between morality and related factors. The focus paper by Gino and Mogilner endeavours to provide empirical evidence that supports the underlying mechanism between time, money and morality is self-reflection. Gino and Mogilner (2014) draw their conceptualisation of morality from the theoretical framework provided by previous studies which have shown a conclusive relationship between time, money and morality. Their methodology operationally defines morality and maintains a standardised procedure to maximise the reliability and validity of their experimental results. Whilst Gino and Mogilner (2014) are able to reliably demonstrate that self-reflection is the underlying mechanism connecting money, time and morality, the immediate applications of the research finding is limited by their approach.

The multifaceted definition of morality provides difficulties in measuring the construct within laboratory environments. However, by simplifying moral behaviour to cheating, the seemingly abstract construct has been operationalised by many for experimental research and produced consistent findings, such as Gino and Pierce (2009). In addition, by eliminating the monetary reward (in Study two) and providing anonymity, potential bias from the motivation of money and social desirability of participants to appear competent has been removed. When compared to previous studies by Diener and Wallbom (1976) where anonymity was not provided in the experiment, the recorded cheating could have resulted from two viable motivations; moral ambiguity and possible demonstration of competence (Vallacher and Solodky, 1979). Gino and Mogilner (2014) have shown superiority in operationalising and controlling their experiment to produce empirical evidence that supports their hypothesis.

The study follows a standardised procedure to ensure greater generalisability and reliability. Study three uses the mirror technique, a reliable method to encourage self-reflection (Wicklund and Duval, 1971), and improving internal validity by the use of a reliable and consistent technique in the methodology. The mirror technique further validates the robustness of the effect by showing internal consistency between the effects of priming money and time to a validated method. In comparison to the use of environmental stimulus (real cash) by Gino and Pierce (2009), the subtlety of priming money and time constructs benefits external validity by increasing generalisability (Mogilner and Aaker, 2009). Priming the constructs allows greater generalisation to the real world situation by broadening the stimulation of time and money to include mental as well as environmental stimuli.

It should be mentioned that the focus paper does have flaws, notably in the use self-reporting scales in Study 4 to measure self-reflection. Self-reporting is limited by the assumption that individuals are insightful and truthful about their own attitudes and behaviours. Additionally, self-reporting may be skewed by the individual desire to appear moral (Nargin and Pogarsky, 2003). Thus, many studies have included social desirability tests to identify to remove possible contenders of lying, such as Nargin and Pogarsky (2003) and Gino and Pierce (2009). Despite lacking such a social desirability test, the questionnaire used to measure self-reflection is similar to the one used by Gino and Pierce (2009), which has proven reliability. Furthermore, Gino and Mogilner (2014) do include a mediation analyses using bootstrap analysis to verify that self-flection was the underlying mechanism between money, time and morality; presenting convincing empirical evidence of the relationship between the constructs.

In conceptualising morality as cheating, the study may risk over-simplifying and limiting the construct as cheating may only represent a form of moral judgment rather than morality as a whole (Abend, 2012). Indeed, the experiment essentially limits the concept of morality to the individual moral judgment in response to the given conditions of the study, such as anonymous cheating opportunities. Furthermore, these confined laboratory conditions inhibit the external validity of the study due to the variability of cheating opportunities and occurrence in real life (Gino and Pierce, 2009). However, Gino and Mogilner are not alone in their approach; studies with a similar method include those by Gino and Pierce (2009), and Shu, Gino and Bazerman (2009). These studies adapt their conceptualisation from Jones’ (1991) definition of immorality as behaviour that violates the moral and legal regulations of the wider community; supporting Gino and Mogilner’s operational definition of morality as a standardised method. Whilst using more subtle primes can increase generalisability, as aforementioned, the limitations of applicability are inevitable in laboratory and experimental research.

Experimental research is challenged by the difficulty to maintain external validity within the controlled laboratory conditions. Whilst encouraging moral conduct in society is a worthy pursuit, direct application of Gino and Mogilner’s (2014) findings may be difficult and limited by situational and environmental influences of morality. A study by Reed, Aquino and Levy (2007) develops the construct of morality in an alternate approach, suggesting instead that individual concept of morality directly influences attitudes towards money and time. This reverse approach is advantageous in having immediate applications, specifically in marketing; non-profit organisations can manipulate the community for more time or money donations based on the prominence of the respective constructs in their advertisement (Reed et al., 2007). Despite forgoing the mediator role of self-reflection, the research does not contradict Gino and Mogilner. Hence, given that the thought of time can increase adherence to moral conduct (Gino and Mogilber, 2014), the focus paper may find applications in an indirect way, such as time prominent marketing strategies. The work of Gino and Mogilner (2014) may be limited in the short run for immediate benefits to society; however it will inarguably be a great asset when considering the growing prevalence of immorality.

Gino and Mogilner (2014) present reliable empirical evidence to determine that self-reflection is the mediator between time, money and morality. The focus paper appropriately operationalises morality to construct a reliable and valid research that increases the credibility of the results. In demonstrating sound empirical results, Gino and Mogilner have proposed a plausible method to reduce immoral behaviours in society. However, the immediate applications of this method are restricted by difficulties in generalising the experimental research to the external, real world environment, and may have to wait until further research is conducted regarding ethical and effective applications.


Abend, G. (2012). What the Science of Morality Doesn't Say About Morality. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 43(2), 157-200.

Diener, E., Wallbom, M. (1976). Effects of Self-Awareness on Antinormative Behaviour. Journal of Research in Personality, 10(1), 107-111.

Gino, F., Mogilner, C. (2014). Time, money, and morality. Psychological Science, 25(2), 414-421.

Gino, F., Pierce, L. (2009). The abundance effect: Unethical behaviour in the presence of wealth. Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 109(2), 142-155.

Jones, T.M. (1991). Ethical Decision Making by Individuals in Organizations: An Issue-Contingent Model, The Academy of Management Review, 16(2), 366-395.

Mogilner, C., Aaker, J. (2009). The Time vs. Money Effect. Journal of Consumer Research, 36(2),277-291.

Nagin, D.S., Pogarsky, G. (2003). An Experimental Investigation of Deterrence: Cheating, Self-Serving Bias, and Impulsivity. Criminology, 41(2), 167-194.

Reed, A., Aquino, K., Levy, E. (2007). Moral Identity and Judgements of Charitable Behaviours. Journal of Marketing 71(1), 178-193.

Shu, L.L., Gino, F., Bazerman, M.H. (2011). Dishonest Deed, Clear Conscience: When Cheating Leads to Moral Disengagement and Motivated. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(3), 330-349.

Vallacher, R.R., Solodky, M. (1979). Objective Self-Awareness, Standards of Evaluation and Moral Behaviour. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 15(3), 254-262.

Wicklund, R.A., Duval, S. (1971). Opinion change and performance facilitation as a result of objective self-awareness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,7(3), 319-342.



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