Journal of Business Ethics 102 (1):155-168 (2011)

Previous research indicates that ethical ideologies, issue-contingencies, and social context can impact ethical reasoning in different business situations. However, the manner in which these constructs work together to shape different steps of the ethical decision-making process is not always clear. The purpose of this study was to address these issues by exploring the influence of idealism and relativism, perceived moral intensity in a decision-making situation, and social context on the recognition of an ethical issue and ethical intention. Utilizing a sales-based scenario and multiple ethics measures included on a self-report questionnaire, data were collected from a regional sample of business students, most of whom had modest work experience. The results indicated that perceived moral intensity was associated with increased ethical issue recognition and ethical intention. Idealism was also associated with increased ethical issue recognition, and relativism was associated with decreased ethical intention. Social consensus was positively related to ethical issue recognition and intention, while competitive context was inversely related to ethical intention. Finally, ethical issue recognition was associated with increased ethical intention. Idealism, moral intensity, social consensus, and work experience worked together as predictors of ethical issue recognition, whereas recognition of an ethical issue, relativism, moral intensity, social consensus, and competitive context worked together to predict ethical intention
Keywords ethical ideologies  moral intensity  social context  ethical reasoning
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-0807-z
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