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Department of Finance Prof. Dr. Carmen Tanner

Behavioral Ethics and Values

We explore how values and moral beliefs affect decision-making and behavior. The phenomenon of protected values is particularly interesting. Protected values refer to values or entities (e.g., human lives, nature, freedom, honesty, human rights) individuals feel strongly committed to, and of which they believe ought be protected from utilitarian trade-offs. Empirical evidence suggests that individuals endorsing protected values are highly reluctant to compromise such values, challenging conventional rational decision-making models that presuppose the inevitability of trade-offs. We explore key questions in various areas (e.g., environmental issues, business ethics, corruption).

We took steps to develop an instrument (in German) to measure protected values. We tested the reliability and validity of the instrument (Tanner, Ryf & Hanselmann, 2009).

Our studies suggest that individuals endorsing protected values are more prone to nonconsequentialist (or deontological) than consequentialist thinking, and less sensitive to framing effects (Tanner & Medin, 2004; Tanner, Medin & Iliev, 2008).

In further experimental studies, we investigated the role of honesty in economic decision making. We observe that people treating honesty as a protected values were more likely to resist situational influences; they were less likely to compromise truthtelling for financial gains (e.g., Gibson, Tanner & Wagner, 2013), and less susceptible to social norms (Gibson, Tanner & Wagner, 2021). Such trade-off resistance is also reflected in brain activity (Dogan et al., 2016). 

In an experimental study employing a bribery game, we find that morally committed people are less susceptible to corruption (Tanner, Lindner & Sohn, 2022). For summaries, see here or here.

Focusing on investor decision-making, we find that investors stake CEO’s values including honesty as a protected value into account when making investment choices (Gibson, Sohn, Tanner & Wagner, 2023; European Accounting Review, forthcoming)

Following interviews give a rough overview on my research topics, see here (on page 16), and here