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Self-Construal and Unethical Behavior


We suggest that understanding unethical behavior in organizations involves understanding how people view themselves and their relationships with others, a concept known as self-construal. Across multiple studies, employing both field and laboratory settings, we examine the impact of three dimensions of self-construal (independent, relational, and collective) on unethical behavior. Our results show that higher levels of relational self-construal relate negatively to unethical behavior. We also find that differences in levels of relational self for men and women mediate gender differences in unethical behavior. We discuss both the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2



Confirmatory factor analysis


Standardized root mean square residual


Root mean square error of approximation


Comparative fit index


Positive and negative affect schedule


Measure of ethical viewpoints

Bca CI:

Bias corrected and accelerated confidence interval


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This research was funded by Grant PTDC/EGE-GES/098856/2008 of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) with funds co-financed by the state budget through the program PIDDAC.

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Correspondence to Irina Cojuharenco.

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Cojuharenco, I., Shteynberg, G., Gelfand, M. et al. Self-Construal and Unethical Behavior. J Bus Ethics 109, 447–461 (2012).

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  • Unethical behavior
  • Self-construal
  • Relational self