The Subjectivity Of Honesty: New Study Reveals Gender Differences In…

Not all acts of dishonesty are considered dishonest.

Men and women differ in terms of what they consider dishonest.

Although men are more likely to justify acts of dishonesty, this tendency decreases with age.

The black-and-white notion of “right” and “wrong” is more of a variable shade of grey. While most individuals may see theft or murder as an outright crime, there is a gradient, even within these extremes: The mother who steals food for her starving children, for example, or the person who kills in self-defense.

Researchers at PsychTests analyzed people’s opinions of various acts of dishonesty. Their study indicates that views of dishonesty differ according to gender. Analyzing data from 997 people who took their Integrity and Work Ethics Test, researchers asked participants the following questions:

When should an employee be pardoned for theft?

  • When the employee is under stress (16% of women and 25% of men endorsed this).
  • When the employee is having problems at home (17% of women and 24% of men endorsed this).
  • When the employee is having financial problems (26% of women and 32% of men endorsed this).
  • When the employee doesn’t have a good salary (17% of women and 19% of men endorsed this statement).
  • When the employee hasn’t had a raise in over five years (15% of women and 20% of men endorsed this).
  • When the employee regularly puts in overtime hours and asks for little in return (31% of women and 39% of men endorsed this).
  • When the employee has been with the company for over 10 years (24% of women and 31% of men endorsed this).
  • When the employee has a clean record (29% of women and 41% of men endorsed this).
  • When other employees are also committing the same act (10% of women and 16% of men endorsed this).


Which of the following dishonest acts do you consider acceptable?

  • A person crosses at a red light when there are no cars in sight (40% of women and 41% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A person throws a cigarette butt on the sidewalk (8% of women and 11% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A father tells his 13-year-old son to pretend he’s 11 years old so that he can get into a movie for free (11% of women and 17% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A teenager regularly visits a make-up boutique but never buys anything. Instead, she just asks for free samples (33% of women and 29% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A mother allows her child to take packets of condiments from a restaurant (29% of both women and men think this is acceptable).
  • A customer at a big chain grocery store receives an extra $5 in change and decides to keep it (4% of women and 11% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A person downloads music illegally (13% of women and 20% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A person buys pirated copies of movies (14% of women and 19% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A person finds a wallet in a restaurant bathroom with $20 and a credit card. He/She takes the money but leaves the wallet and credit card with the restaurant manager (4% of women and 9% of men think this is acceptable).
  • The mailman delivers a large box of imported foods to the wrong address, and the recipient keeps it (3% of women and 6% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A person moves into a new apartment and realizes that his/her elderly neighbor unknowingly has an open WiFi network. He/She decides to take advantage of the free internet access rather than informing the neighbor (15% of women and 20% of men think this is acceptable).
  • A person accidentally dents a car late at night and doesn’t leave a note (3% of women and 8% of men think this is acceptable).


Indicate whether you would feel remorse for committing the following acts.

  • You accidentally eat a co-workers lunch (50% of women and 42% of men would be remorseful).
  • You borrow $20 from a colleague and only remember a month later that you haven’t paid him back (56% of women and 51% of men would be remorseful).
  • A new and distraught employee asks for your help on a project. It’s the end of the week and you’re tired, so you tell him/her that you can’t offer any help (47% of women and 39% of men would be remorseful).
  • You make a negative comment about a colleague who overhears you and spends the rest of the day crying in her office (87% of women and 80% of men would be remorseful).
  • Your colleague gets in trouble for a mistake no one knows you committed (92% of women and 81% of men would be remorseful).
  • You break a piece of expensive equipment at work but are able to cover your tracks so that no one can trace it back to you (77% of women and 68% of men would be remorseful).
  • In order to get a promotion you’re competing for, you spread a rumor about your competitor that spreads quickly and as a result, you get the promotion (89% of women and 76% of men would be remorseful).
  • You steal a colleague’s idea and present it to your boss before your colleague has a chance. You receive a great deal of praise and a promotion (90% of women and 77% of men would be remorseful).


“Although men are more likely to justify acts of dishonesty, this tendency decreases with age,” explains Dr. Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “In fact, for both genders, younger age groups were more likely than older age groups to justify certain acts of dishonesty, or to believe that they were not a big deal. Our study also reveals that participants will empathize with employees who display loyalty and who are hard-working, even if they commit an act of theft, but will be merciless toward an employee who acts dishonestly simply because he/she is following the crowd. Essentially, our sample considers the ’everyone-else-is-doing-it’ excuse a cop-out and completely unacceptable. In addition, women, particularly those over the age of 30, will really beat themselves up if their success were to come at the cost of someone else’s. They would rather put in the blood, sweat, and tears needed to succeed than scheme or lie their way to the top.”

Want to assess your integrity? Check out http://testyourself.psychtests.com/testid/3977

Professional users of this test can download a sample report for the WINT – R3 (Work Integrity Test – 3rd Revision) or request a free demo for any assessment from ARCH Profile’s extensive battery: http://hrtests.archprofile.com/testdrive_gen_1

To learn more about psychological testing, download this free eBook: Spotting Diamonds in the Rough. (http://hrtests.archprofile.com/personality-tests-in-hr)

About PsychTests AIM Inc.

PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see ARCHProfile.com). The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

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