Skip to main content
Log in

Can Business Ethics be Trained? A Study of the Ethical Decision-making Process in Business Students

  • Published:
Journal of Business Ethics Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to examine the various guidelines presented in the literature for instituting an ethics curriculum and to empirically study their effectiveness. Three questions are addressed concerning the trainability of ethics material and the proper integration and implementation of an ethics curriculum. An empirical study then tested the effect of ethics training on moral awareness and reasoning. The sample consisted of two business classes, one exposed to additional ethics curriculum (experimental), and one not exposed (control). For the experimental group, ethics exercises and discussion relevant to each topic were completed. Findings suggested gender differences such that, relative to other groups, women in the experimental group showed significantly improved moral awareness and decision-making processes. An explanation of the underlying cognitive processes is presented to explain the gender effect.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

References

  • Bargh J.A. (1994). The Four Hoursemen of Automaticity: Awareness, Intention, Efficiency, and Control in Social Cognition. In: Wyer J.S., Skrull T.K. (eds) Handbook of Social Cognition. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp 1–40

    Google Scholar 

  • Beu D.S., Buckley M.R., Harvey M.G. (2003). Ethical Decision-Making: A Multidimensional Construct. Business Ethics: A European Review 12(1):88–106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Callahan D. (1980). Goals in the Effective Teaching of Ethics. In: Callahan D., Bok S. (eds) Ethics in Higher Education. Plenum Press, New York, NY

    Google Scholar 

  • Churchill L.R. (1982). The Teaching of Ethics and Moral Values in Teaching: Some Contemporary Confusions. The Journal of Higher Education 3(3):296–306

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clarkeburn H. (2002). A Test for Ethical Sensitivity in Science. Journal of Moral Education 31(4):439–453

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cragg W. (1997). Teaching Business Ethics: The Role of Ethics in Business and in Business Education. Journal of Business Ethics 16:231–245

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Devine P.G. (1989). Stereotypes and Prejudice: Their Automatic and Controlled Components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56:5–18

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Felton E.L., Sims R.R. (2005). Teaching Business Ethics: Targeted Outputs. Journal of Business Ethics 60:377–391

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Foti R.J., Lord R.G. (1987). Prototypes and Scripts: The Effects of Alternative Methods of Processing Information on Rating Accuracy. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 39(3):318–340

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Franke G.R., Crown D.F., Spake D.F. (1997). Gender Differences in Ethical Perceptions of Business Practices: A Social Role Theory Perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology 82(6):920–934

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fritzsche, D.J. and H. Becker: 1984, ‘Linking Management Behavior to Ethical Philosophy-An Empirical Investigation’, Academy of Management Journal, 27, 166–175

    Google Scholar 

  • Galbraith S., Stephenson H.B. (1993). Decision Rules used by Male and Female Business Students in Making Ethical Value Judgments: Another Look. Journal of Business Ethics 12(3):227–234

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gilligan C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Hudson W. (1912). Aim and Content of the First College Course in Ethics. The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods 9(17):455–459

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loe T., Weeks W.A. (2000). An Experiment Investigation of Efforts to Improve Sales Students’ Moral Reasoning. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management 20(4):243–242

    Google Scholar 

  • Lowry D. (2003). An Investigation of Student Moral Awareness and Associated Factors in Two Cohorts of an Undergraduate Business Degree in A British University: Implications for Business Ethics Curriculum Design. Journal of Business Ethics 48(1):7–13

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mcdonald G.M. (2004). A Case Example: Integrating Ethics into the Academic Business Curriculum. Journal of Business Ethics 54:371–384

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Noe R.A. (1999). Employee Training and Development. Mcgraw-Hill, Boston, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Oddo A.R. (1997). A Framework for Teaching Business Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 16:293–297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pettifor J.L., Estay I., Paquet S. (2000). Preferred Strategies for Learning Ethics in the Practice of a Discipline. Canadian Psychology 43(4):260–269

    Google Scholar 

  • Rest J. (1984). Research on Moral Development: Implications for Training Psychologists. The Counseling Psychologist 12:19–30

    Google Scholar 

  • Ritter B.A., Lord R.G. (2006). Leadership Transference: The Impact of Previous Leaders on Follower Performance. Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

    Google Scholar 

  • Rossouw G.J. (2002). Three Approaches to Teaching Business Ethics. Teaching Business Ethics 6:411–433

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ruegger D., King E.W. (1992). A Study of the Effect of Age and Gender upon Student Business Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 11:179–186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saul G.K. (1981). Business Ethics: Where are We Going? Academy of Management Review 6(2):269–276

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schlaefi A., Rest J.R., Thoma S.J. (1985). Does Moral Education Improve Moral Judgment? A Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies using the Defining Issues Test. Review of Educational Research 55(3):319–352

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sims R.R. (2002). Business Ethics Teaching for Effective Learning. Teaching Business Ethics 6:393–410

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sims R., Felton E. (2006). Designing and Delivering Business Ethics and Learning. Journal of Business Ethics 63(3):297–313

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith E.R. (1996). What do connectionism and Social Psychology Offer Each Other?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70(5):893–912

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith P.L., Oakley E.F. (1997). Gender-Related Differences in Ethical and Social Values of Business Students: Implications for Management. Journal of Business Ethics 16:37–45

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith E.R., Queller S. (2000). Mental representations. In: Tesser A., Schwarz N. (eds) Blackwell Handbook in Social Psychology, Vol 1: Intraindividual Processes. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 111–133

    Google Scholar 

  • Weber J., Glyptis S.M. (2000). Measuring the Impact of a Business Ethics Course and Community Service Experience on Students’ Values and Opinions. Teaching Business Ethics 4:341–358

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wittmer D. (1992). Ethical Sensitivity and Managerial Decision-making: An Experiment. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 2(4):443–462

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolfe J., Fritzsche D.J. (1998). Teaching Business Ethics with Management and Marketing Games. Simulation and Gaming 29(1):44–59

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

This research was funded by the Coastal Carolina University Center for Effective Teaching and Learning Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant Program.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Barbara A. Ritter.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ritter, B.A. Can Business Ethics be Trained? A Study of the Ethical Decision-making Process in Business Students. J Bus Ethics 68, 153–164 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-006-9062-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-006-9062-0

Keywords

Navigation