Quotation Noval, Laura, Stahl, Günter, Molinsky, Andy. 2018. Motivated dissimilarity construal and self-serving behavior: how we distance ourselves from those we harm. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. (148), 145-158.




It is well established that people are more likely to act in a self-serving manner towards those dissimilar to themselves. Less well understood is how people actively shape perceptions of dissimilarity towards victims in order to minimize their own discomfort. In this paper, we introduce the concept of Motivated Dissimilarity Construal (MDC) – the act of purposely and proactively distancing oneself psychologically from the victim of one’s own self-serving behavior. In doing so, we challenge the notion that potential victims of self-serving acts are perceived objectively and independently of a decision maker’s motivation, as traditional rationalist models of decision making might suggest. Across three experiments, we demonstrate how, why and when MDC is likely to occur, and discuss implications of these findings for theory and research on behavioral ethics and interpersonal similarity.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Citation Index SSCI
WU Journalrating 2009 A
WU-Journal-Rating new FIN-A, MAN-A, STRAT-A, WH-A
Language English
Title Motivated dissimilarity construal and self-serving behavior: how we distance ourselves from those we harm
Number 148
Year 2018
Page from 145
Page to 158
Reviewed? Y
DOI http://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.08.003
Open Access N


Stahl, Günter (Details)
Molinsky, Andy (Brandeis International Business School, United States/USA)
Noval, Laura (Imperial College London, United Kingdom)
Institute for International Business (Stahl) (Details)
Competence Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility WE (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5300 Economics (Details)
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