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Corporate responsibility, Corporate wrongdoing, Business liability, Deep pockets effect


Applied Statistics | Business Organizations Law | Litigation | Torts


For many years, researchers assumed that the public was indifferent to corporate wrongdoing, but recent surveys have discovered evidence to the contrary. Taking insights from these data a step further, this study employed an experimental design to examine whether people responded differently to corporate versus individual wrongdoers. We varied the identity of the central actor in a scenario involving harm to workers. Half the respondents were informed that a corporation caused the harm; the remainder were told that an individual did so. Respondents applied a higher standard of responsibility to the corporate actor. For identical actions, the corporation was judged as more reckless and more morally wrong than the individual. Respondents' judgments of the greater recklessness of the corporation led them to recommend higher civil and criminal penalties against the corporation.

Publication Citation

Published in: Law and Human Behavior, vol. 13, no. 2 (June 1989).