Turning Inward or Focusing Out? Navigating Theories of Interpersonal and Ethical Cognitions to Understand Ethical Decision-Making

Journal of Business Ethics 130 (2):467-484 (2015)
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Abstract

The literature on ethical decision-making is rooted in a cognitive perspective that emphasizes the role of moral judgment. Recent research in interpersonal dynamics, however, has suggested that ethics revolves around an individual’s perceptions and views of others. We draw from both literatures to propose and empirically examine a contingent model. We theorize that whether the individual relies on cognitions about the ethical issue or perceptions of others depends on the level of social consensus surrounding the issue. We test our hypotheses in three studies. Results suggest that not only does social consensus determine whether an individual relies on ethical cognitions about the issue or perceptions of others, but also that an individual’s view of self is an important moderator in these relationships. We conclude by considering implications of this research for theory and practice.

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