Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 17–42

Circles of Ethics: The Impact of Proximity on Moral Reasoning

  • Cristina Wildermuth
  • Carlos A. De Mello e Souza
  • Timothy Kozitza
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10551-015-2635-z

Cite this article as:
Wildermuth, C., De Mello e Souza, C.A. & Kozitza, T. J Bus Ethics (2017) 140: 17. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2635-z
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Abstract

We report the results of an experiment designed to determine the effects of psychological proximity—proxied by awareness of pain (empathy) and friendship—on moral reasoning. Our study tests the hypotheses that a moral agent’s emphasis on justice decreases with proximity, while his/her emphasis on care increases. Our study further examines how personality, gender, and managerial status affect the importance of care and justice in moral reasoning. We find support for the main hypotheses. We also find that care should be split into two components, one related to protection (or compassion) and the other to the preservation of relationships. Although gender does not affect moral reasoning directly, we find that it does so indirectly via personality, controlling for age, professional status, and professional background. We do not find a significant effect of managerial status on ethics of justice, but do find that holding a managerial position has a negative impact on ethics of care. Regarding personality, we detect significant positive effects of conscientiousness on ethics of justice and of neuroticism on ethics of care.

Keywords

Ethics of careEthics of justiceFive-factor modelGenderMoral reasoningPersonality traitsPsychological proximityStructural equation model

Abbreviations

AIC

Akaike information criterion

BFI

Oliver John’s Big Five Inventory

BFI-10

Big Five Inventory with 10 questions used in this study

BFI-44

Big Five Inventory with 44 questions

Big Five traits

A

Agreeableness

C

Conscientiousness

E

Extraversion

N

Neuroticism

O

Originality

Care-P

Care-Protection factor

Care-R

Care-Relationships factor

CoE

Circles of ethics

glb

Greatest lower bound to reliability

GSEM

Generalized structural equation modeling

Goodness-of-fit statistics for structural equation models

CFI

Comparative Fit Index

RMSEA

Root mean square error of approximation

SRMR

Standardized root mean square residual

TLI

Tucker–Lewis Index

HR

Human resources

HRM

Human resource management

MBTI

Myers–Briggs Type Indicator

MR

Moral reasoning

MRI-20

Moral reasoning instrument with 20 questions designed for this study

SEM

Structural equation modeling

SHRM

Society for Human Resources Management

T&D

Training and Development

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Wildermuth
    • 1
  • Carlos A. De Mello e Souza
    • 2
  • Timothy Kozitza
    • 3
  1. 1.School of EducationDrake UniversityWest Des MoinesUSA
  2. 2.Albers School of Business and EconomicsSeattle UniversitySeattleUSA
  3. 3.Nationwide InsuranceWaukeeUSA