People are more likely to do the right thing in situations of moral conflict when it requires little to no effort, according to a new research.
The study found that if income information is automatically entered into our tax return, we may be less likely to alter it to something that is incorrect once it’s there.
However, the passive response can promote cheating, too. When faced with a blank return, we may conveniently “forget” to fill in those bothersome boxes for things like extra money made on investments, which might push our taxes higher.
Researcher Nina Mazar said that they don’t think there is one solution for all situations in which people are tempted to be dishonest, but they definitely know from prior research that people tend to accept the status quo.
The results of this study have implications for a variety of self-report situations, including insurance applications and claim forms, as well as tax returns.
The paper suggests that more people may comply with tax reporting rules if their reporting mechanisms, such as tax preparation software, require a response even in cases where individuals don’t have anything to report or pre-fill key fields with available information.
The study appears in Journal of Experimental Psychology.