Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp 157–171 | Cite as

The Effect of Implicit Moral Attitudes on Managerial Decision-Making: An Implicit Social Cognition Approach

  • Nicki MarquardtEmail author
  • Rainer Hoeger


This article concerns itself with the relationship between implicit moral cognitions and decisions in the realm of business ethics. Traditionally, business ethics research emphasized the effects of overt or␣explicit attitudes on ethical decision-making and neglected intuitive or implicit attitudes. Therefore, based on an implicit social cognition approach it is important to␣know whether implicit moral attitudes may have a substantial impact on managerial ethical decision-making processes. To test this thesis, a study with 50 participants was conducted. In this study the participants were asked to work on a deliberative managerial ethical decision-making task, in which they had to decide on one of two options. Implicit moral attitudes towards the two options were measured using the implicit association test (IAT). A semantic differential scale was used to diagnose explicit moral attitudes towards the two options. Each step taken within the deliberative decision-making process, as well the decision itself, was assessed using a scoring model-based decision analysis and a decision-making questionnaire. The results of this study show that implicit moral attitude has a great influence on the deliberative ethical decision-making process. The derived conclusion is that complex and deliberative decision-making processes in the context of business ethics can be affected by implicit social cognitions such as implicit moral attitudes.


business ethics ethical decision-making implicit association test (IAT) implicit attitudes implicit social cognition mental processes moral judgements 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Experimental Industrial Psychology – LueneLabLeuphana University LueneburgLueneburgGermany

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