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An Examination of the Emotional and Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying Greed: A Neurocognitive Perspective




Carnevale, Joel

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




Despite the widespread attribution of greed as a fundamental cause of organizational misbehavior, scholarly research examining when and why overly greedy individuals put themselves before others remains scant. Drawing from a dual-process perspective, I use brain-imaging technology to examine potential neurological differences in greed. Specifically, I examine potential neurological differences (i.e., greater activity in the amygdala and ventral striatum) for those high (versus low) on dispositional greed, and whether such differences influence greedy decision-making. In addition, I explore whether activation of brain areas responsible for empathy and perspective taking of others (i.e., dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) can override prior decisions. Data was collected over two waves. In the first wave, I collected personality and demographic survey data from 809 students at a large southeastern University. In the second wave, I collected brain imaging data from 19 males (screened from the first wave) using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results from a whole-brain voxel-wise analysis did not provide support for differences in amygdala and ventral striatum activation in those high (versus low) on dispositional greed. Further, results from a region of interest analysis did not provide support for the hypothesized mediating effect of amygdala and ventral striatum activation for the relationship between dispositional greed and behavioral greed. Finally, results of the exploratory study found no significant associations between dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activation and the overriding of prior greedy decisions. Contributions to research on greed and ethical decision-making are discussed, and limitations and future directions are offered.