Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 12, Issue 9, pp 677–687 | Cite as

A comparison of ethical perceptions of business and engineering majors

  • Priscilla O'Clock
  • Marilyn Okleshen


Previous research has reported that ethical values of business students are lower than those of their peers in other majors. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether a self-selection bias with respect to ethical values exists among students enrolled as business majors when compared with students planning to enter the engineering profession. Engineering students are exposed to a similar technical orientation in academic curricula and also supply the market for managers.

A survey instrument was administered to 195 students enrolled in undergraduate business and engineering programs and a graduate business program. The research instrument measured how business and engineering students perceive their own ethical beliefs and actions and how they perceived the ethical beliefs and actions of their peers.

The results indicate a perceptual trap, or the self-versus-others disparity exists for the entire sample. However, there was a divergence between the two groups on the issue of “whistle blowing.” Engineers may be more sensitive to this issue. It was concluded that if a self-selection process exists, it is present for both business and engineering professional tracks with implications for educators in both disciplines.

It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine, but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he — with his specialized knowledge — more closely resembles a trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, heir illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow men and to the community.

— Albert Einstein


Business Student Engineering Student Technical Orientation Ethical Belief Ethical Perception 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Priscilla O'Clock
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marilyn Okleshen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Xavier UniversityCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Mankato State UniversityUSA

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