The effect of construal level on unethical behavior

Eyal Gamliel, Hamutal Kreiner, Todd McElroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Construal level theory predicts that people will judge immoral events more harshly when these are presented in a way that elicits a higher construal level, relative to a lower construal level. Previous research supported this prediction using an Israeli sample but not a U.S. sample. This article compared Israeli and U.S. samples with respect to the interactive effect of utility and construal level on unethical behavioral intentions. We found that construal level did not affect unethical behavioral intentions in either the U.S. samples for low-utility level or the Israeli samples for low- and high-utility levels. In contrast, construal level affected unethical behavioral intentions in the U.S. sample for high-utility level: unethical behavioral intentions were higher in the low-construal level compared to the high-construal level. We discuss these findings and suggest additional factors that challenge arguments concerning the direct effect of construal level on unethical behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Taylor & Francis.


  • Consequentialism
  • construal level theory
  • deontology
  • moral judgment
  • unethical behavior
  • utility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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