Economists at the University of Zurich, Michel Maréchal, Alain Cohn and Ernst Fehr, set out to learn whether bankers are in fact more likely to cheat. They particularly focused on whether people who consciously thought of themselves as bankers (and acted under this moniker) were more likely to cheat than when they had their non-professional hats on. They suspected it was something about the identity of being a banker that made people more likely to cheat.
To test this question, they asked a group of people working for a financial organisation to complete a simple questionnaire. The respondents were divided into two groups. The first was initially asked a set of questions about their job as bankers (such as which division they worked in). The second was asked about their everyday life (such as how much television they watched). This primed the first group to think of themselves as “bankers”; the second as “everyday people”.
After this step, both groups were then asked to play a simple game. They were asked to flip a coin ten times and record their results. Before they flipped the coin, they were also told if you got heads (for instance) you will receive US$20. Because it was an online test, no-one could check the results – so there was lots of room for lying.
The results were surprising. The people who were primed to think about themselves as an everyday person did not lie about their results (despite the fact there was ample room to do so). But the group who were primed to think of themselves as bankers tended to lie significantly more – they misrepresented their results about 16% of the time and more than a quarter of the “bankers” group cheated.
More here – The Conversation