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Public service motivation, Ethics, Prosocial priming
Public service motivation (PSM) research has grown rapidly in the last several decades, largely focused on the role of PSM in employment decisions and employee performance. More recently, researchers have raised the possibility that PSM may play a role in workplace ethical behavior. In this study we sought to empirically articulate this link with evidence from three experimental studies. Across three experiments our research fails to confirm the relationship between PSM and ethics. We measured ethics both attitudinally and observationally. We conclude that even if the null findings are due to sample characteristics or weaknesses in the priming intervention, the three studies reported here raise concerns regarding the ease with which one can influence behavior by "priming" PSM. PSM may increase ethical behavior but not always in ways that public managers and organizations can easily influence.