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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Julia Puaschunder

Julia PuaschunderJulia Puaschunder
Harvard University

Ethical Decision Making Under Social Uncertainty: An Introduction of Überethicality.

Decision making research has been revolutionized by prospect theory. Prospect theory’s core finding that monetary losses loom larger than gains has been generalized in many domains; yet not been tested for social status changes. Understanding human cognition in the light of social status perspectives could allow turning social status experiences into ethicality nudges. Ethicality as a socially-appreciated, noble societal contribution offers the prospect of social status gains given the societal respect for altruism and pro-social acts. An Überethical filling of current legal gaps or outperforming legal regulations grant additional social status elevation opportunities. Building on prospect theory, two field observations of environmentally conscientious recycling behavior and sustainable energy consumption found social status losses as significant drivers of socially-responsible environmental conscientiousness. Testing prospect theory for social status striving advances socio-economics and helps understanding the underlying mechanisms of social identity theories. Pegging social status to ethicality is an unprecedented approach to use social forces as a means for accomplishing positive societal change.