Kristin Smith-Crow of the University of Utah and Maryam Kouchaki of Harvard University, said individuals who could gain monetarily through unethical behavior were more likely to demonstrate that behavior than those who weren't offered a financial gain.
"We were interested in why good people would do bad behavior," Smith-Crowe told cable's CNBC. "We certainly found that the love of money is corrupting and just the mere exposure to it makes people do bad things."
Smith-Crow, Kouchaki and colleagues said the study involved 324 undergraduate students. The researchers conducted four separate "games," dividing participants into two groups, one of which was told of a financial reward for the behavior while the other was told there was no financial reward.
For example, the study participants played a "deception game," in which one group could earn more money by lying rather than telling the truth while the second group was given no reward for lying.
Smith-Crowe said when it comes to making a business decision, the study participants with the promise of money set aside any moral issues.
"They completely lost track of everything else except pursuing their self interests," Smith-Crowe added. "They focused on the cost benefit of their decisions rather than how it might affect other people."
The findings were published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.