moral behavior

Morality is an elusive term, but there exists an academic common sense that immoral behavior involves harming others in an unjustified way.


state of research

Research over the past decades showed that individuals’ behavior in moral decision-making is volatile. We now know that individuals’ moral behavior is affected by institutions, image concerns, or circumstances. Enhancing our understanding of the complexity of moral transgressions is a crucial goal. It could help us design fairer market institutions and prevent harmful outcomes stemming from market interactions or organizational design, e.g., detrimental working conditions, or environmental damage.

briq's contribution

The work of briq researchers on the malleability of moral behavior helped to put the topic of morality in the spotlight of economic science. In 2013 Falk and Szech published an article in Science in which they used controlled experimental evidence to show how market interactions sway peoples’ moral behavior. In 2015, Armin Falk received an ERC Advanced Grant. As part of the ERC funded project, Falk highlights how image concerns, social pressure and comparisons, the circulation of excuses, and the diffusion of being pivotal affect moral outcomes.

Bénabou’s influential theoretical work on the determinants of prosocial behavior completes the experimental research done by Falk, DellaVigna, Malmendier, and Others. Papers of briq researchers got published in Journals like Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Economic Review, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Review of Economic Studies.

" Our moral behavior strongly depends on circumstances, situations, emotions, and personality. briq’s research deepens our understanding of when and why individuals or organizations act immorally. Using this knowledge could help us to design fairer markets and institutions.
Armin Falk

get the answer?



December 15, 2020

Self-image plays an important role for moral behavior

Self Image


October 1, 2020

briq student fellow portraits: Luca Henkel

Luca Henkel


June 25, 2018

Three questions with Roland Bénabou

working papers

  • Narratives, imperatives and moral persuasion.
    Bénabou, R., Falk, A. & Tirole, J.
  • Eliciting moral preferences: Theory and Experiment.
    Bénabou, R., Falk, A., Henkel, L. & Tirole, J.
  • Status inequality and moral disengagement.
    Falk, A.
  • (2020).Facing Yourself - A Note on Self-image. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (forthcoming).
    Falk, A.


  • (2020). Diffusion of being pivotal and immoral outcomes. Review of Economic Studies, 87(5), 2205-2229.
    Falk, A., Neuber, T., & Szech, N.
  • "Voting to tell others." The Review of Economic Studies 84, no. 1 (2016): 143-181.
    DellaVigna, Stefano, John A. List, Ulrike Malmendier, and Gautam Rao.
  • (2014). Cheating more for less: Upward social comparisons motivate the poorly compensated to cheat. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 123(2), 101-109.
    John, L., Loewenstein, G. & Rick, S.
  • (2013). Morals and markets. Science, 340(6133), 707-711.
    Falk, A., & Szech, N.
  • "Testing for altruism and social pressure in charitable giving." The quarterly journal of economics 127, no. 1 (2012): 1-56.
    DellaVigna, Stefano, John A. List, and Ulrike Malmendier.
  • (2012). Ethical Immunity: How people violate their own moral standards without feeling they are doing so. In David De Cremer & Ann E. Tenbrunsel (eds.), Behavioral Business Ethics: Ideas on an emerging field (pp. 201-219). New York: Routledge.
    Dana, J., Loewenstein, G. & Weber, R.
  • "Identity, morals, and taboos: Beliefs as assets." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 126, no. 2 (2011): 805-855.
    Bénabou, Roland, and Jean Tirole.
  • "Incentives and prosocial behavior." American economic review 96, no. 5 (2006): 1652-1678.
    Bénabou, Roland, and Jean Tirole.