Should a doctor ever give her patients false hope? Should a husband tell his partner that they look great in an ill-fitting outfit? Should a judge sentence a criminal according to the law, or according to the specific details of a case? Should we give to causes that make us feel good, or to causes that have the greatest impact?
My research seeks to understand these questions. Specifically, I study the psychology of altruism, trust, and ethical dilemmas with the goal of understanding how individuals make trade-offs between different values, and how these trade-offs influence decision-making and social perception. My main stream of research investigates the tension between honesty and benevolence. Many of our most common and difficult ethical dilemmas involve balancing honesty and benevolence. We routinely face this conflict in our personal lives, when deciding how to communicate with friends and family members, and in our professional lives, when deciding how to deliver difficult news and critical feedback. Honesty and benevolence also conflict during some of our most demanding and emotional ethical decisions. For example, when healthcare professionals communicate information to sick and elderly individuals, they must strike a delicate balance between providing hope and care, and communicating honestly. Using a variety of research methods, in both the laboratory and the field, I study how individuals navigate this tension. My research unearths specific circumstances in which people welcome and appreciate deception, and when they underestimate the benefits of honesty.
In related research, I examine how individuals navigate other ethical dilemmas – for example, conflicts between rule following and discretion, or conflicts between fairness and favoritism. My second stream of research examines when and why individuals engage in prosocial behaviors, and how they give credit to others for their good deeds.
My research has been featured in top psychology, management, and marketing journals including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the Journal of Marketing Research, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.