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Pinto fires and personal ethics: A script analysis of missed opportunities

  • Behavioral Aspects Of Business Ethics
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This article details the personal involvement of the author in the early stages of the infamous Pinto fire case. The paper first presents an insider account of the context and decision environment within which he failed to initiate an early recall of defective vehicles. A cognitive script analysis of the personal experience is then offered as an explanation of factors that led to a decision that now is commonly seen as a definitive study in unethical corporate behavior. The main analytical thesis is that script schemas that were guiding cognition and action at the time precluded consideration of issues in ethical terms because the scripts did not include ethical dimensions.

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Dennis A. Gioia is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Department of Management and Organization, The Smeal College of Business Administration, Pennsylvania State University. Professor Gioia's primary research and writing focus of the nature and uses of complex cognitive processes by organization members and the ways that these processes affect sensemaking, communication, influence and organizational change. His most recent research interests have to do with the less rational, more intuitive, emotional, and political aspects of organizational life — those fascinating arenas where people in organizations tend to subvert management scholars' heartfelt attempts to have them behave more rationally. Prior to this ivory tower career, he worked in the real world as an engineering aide for Boeing Aerospace at Kennedy Space Center and as vehicle recall coordinator for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan.

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Gioia, D.A. Pinto fires and personal ethics: A script analysis of missed opportunities. J Bus Ethics 11, 379–389 (1992).

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