Nathan Mecham, Dr. Melissa Lewis-Western, and Dr. David Wood, Accounting Department
Pornography use has increased significantly over the past twenty years, mostly due to the Internet. The Internet has increased access, affordability, and anonymity of pornography which are the driving forces for the increase in pornography consumption both at home and in the workplace. In the work place, pornography consumption is responsible for lost worker productivity estimated to be worth $16.9 billion annually. However, wasted time and resources may not be the only negative effects of pornography in the workplace. Specifically, pornography may influence employees to make unethical decisions.
In this study we test how pornography influences ethical decision making. We also measure three potential mediating variables, physiological arousal, delay discounting, and dehumanization, to try and explain why viewing pornography causes someone to act unethically. According to prior literature, pornography causes increases in all three of these variables; delay discounting and dehumanization decrease ethical decisions, while physiological arousal increases ethical decisions. Thus, it is possible that viewing pornography is positively or negatively associated with ethical decision making.
In order to test our research question, we use a 1×2 experimental design to find causal evidence that a relationship between pornography consumption and ethical decision making exists. Participants for the experiment were taken from Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online labor market.
Participants were randomly assigned to a control or pornography group. We used a memory task to apply the manipulation; the control group described their most recent experience exercising, while the pornography group described their most recent experience viewing pornography. This activated the pornography imagery without directly showing pornography to anyone.
After describing their experiences, both groups were asked to watch a boring 10-minute video. Participants were told they were being paid to watch the video in its entirety. We captured whether participants watched the entire video and then asked them if they did. Our main measure of ethical decision making was if participants would lie for money. We also asked other questions to measure physiological arousal, delay discounting, and dehumanization.
Results and Discussion
Our results show that pornography does cause unethical decision making. In fact, those in the pornography group were more than twice as likely to lie than the control group. We also found that the reason why pornography causes unethical decision making is because it increases dehumanization levels. This means that those who view pornography dehumanize others making it easier to make unethical decisions. Neither of the other mediating variables had a statistically significant effect.
The results of this study have some important implications for businesses. As pornography consumption continues to increase, companies will need to be aware of the dangers pornography present to their business. Companies will need to take more care in hiring decisions and in implementing strong internal controls to avoid scandals. These controls may be to prevent unethical decisions or to prevent viewing pornography in the workplace.
Pornography has many negative effects including increasing depression levels, lowering self-esteem, and hurting relationships. In this study we find that pornography increases dehumanization levels which causes people to act unethically. While the focus of this study was on the effects of unethical decision in a business setting, this study should raise awareness and concern in the public about the adverse effects pornography has on individuals.
The experience I have gained by working on this research project is invaluable. I have gained experience in every aspect of the research project. I was able to research the relevant literature, find tools in to measure our variables, design an experimental instrument, and communicate the results. I am grateful for the support of my donor, the ORCA program, and my mentors.