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Pornography and Ethics at Work

“While it may seem obvious that watching pornography in the office can increase unethical behavior in the workplace, a new BYU study found statistically significant numbers that shows it does exactly that.”


On June 26th of this year, Lauren Bennett, a writer KSL.com published an article entitled “Watching porn at work makes people behave unethically, BYU study finds”, which has the lead of “While it may seem obvious that watching pornography in the office can increase unethical behavior in the workplace, a new BYU study found statistically significant numbers that shows it does exactly that” She reports:


The study, titled "The Effects of Pornography on Unethical Behavior in Business," was published in the Journal of Business Ethics on 6/4/2019, and authored by BYU accounting professors Melissa Lewis-Western and David Wood, as well as Nathan Mecham, former BYU grad student who's now a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh.


The experiment involved 200 participants divided into two groups; one group was asked to recall and record their last experience viewing pornography, and the control group was instead asked to recall and record their most recent experience exercising. For ethical reasons, researchers didn't expose participants directly to pornography.


Researchers then tasked both groups with watching the entirety of a "boring" 10-minute video that had a monotone voice speaking, according to the study. In the research paper, authors explained the video was meant to be boring to "provide an incentive for participants to skip the movie."


The results showed that 21% of the first group did not finish watching the video and lied about it, whereas only 8% in the control group didn't finish the movie and lied. "This represented a statistically significant 163 percent increase in shirking work and lying for those who view pornography," according to a news release from BYU.


Along with the experiment, the study also issued a nationally representative survey of 1,000 people, which yielded similar evidence to the experiment.


The research also found that the rise in unethical behavior is caused by an increased inclination to dehumanize others. In other words, pornography consumption makes the viewer more susceptible to viewing others as objects or less than human, according to the study.


“If you have a larger portion of your employees that are consuming pornography at work, it’s likely changing their behaviors and those changes are likely negative,” Lewis-Western said in a statement. “Regardless of your stance on pornography, most people want to be good employees, they want to be fair to men and women and they don’t want to be unethical. That’s where we need to start the conversation. We need to refrain from viewing pornography to create work environments that are inclusive to all.”


The study, which can be downloaded here, highlights a number of different findings. We found this study informative on many topics, but cited it because of the finding that pornography consumption makes the viewer more susceptible to viewing others as objects or less than human. The disassociation that grows as a viewer (especially younger ones) is why we view the Freein13 program as so necessary and useful in stopping this tendency as soon as possible.

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