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Using dimensions of moral intensity to predict ethical decision-making in accounting

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Many ethical decisions are based on the intensity of the moral conflict. Embezzling large sums of money is seen as more unethical, by most people, than stealing a pen or a piece of paper from one's workplace. This study examines the importance of the underlying characteristics of moral issues and how they directly affect accounting students' ethical decision-making process (moral sensitivity, moral judgment and moral intentions). A four stage model presented by Rest (1986) and expanded by Jones' (1991) was used to measure the moral decision-making process. The study highlights the results of a sample of 110 accounting majors in a small business college in the USA. The research suggests that moral intensity appeared to have two dimensions: “perceived corporate concern” and “perceived involvement effect”. These dimensions did not significantly predict moral sensitivity. However, when they were combined with moral sensitivity they did significantly predict the students' moral judgment. Likewise, moral judgment and the dimensions of moral intensity significantly predicted accounting students' moral intentions. The findings presented here extend current understanding of the influence of the moral intensity components on the moral decision-making process. The results can also be used to enhance ethics coursework and training programs in educational and industrial settings.
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Keywords: Moral intensity; accounting; business ethics; ethics; moral issues

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Goldey-Beacom College, USA

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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