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Cultural Crossvergence and Social Desirability Bias: Ethical Evaluations by Chinese and Canadian Business Students

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to determine whether there are cross-cultural differences between Chinese and Canadian business students with respect to their assessment of the ethicality of various business behaviors. Using a sample of 147 business students, the results indicate cultural crossvergence; the Chinese (72 students) and Canadians (75 students) exhibit different ethical attitudes toward questionable business practices at the individual level but not at the corporate level. A social desirability bias (a tendency to deny socially unacceptable actions and to admit to socially desirable ones) is also found to be a cross-cultural phenomenon, with the Canadians demonstrating a greater bias than the Chinese. Finally, this bias causes respondents to increase their assessment of the un-ethicality of questionable business activities.

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Acknowledgments

The authors appreciate the thoughtful comments and suggestions of two anonymous reviewers. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the annual meetings of the American Accounting Association, the Canadian Academic Accounting Association, the Academy of Management, the International Association for Business and Society and the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada. Both authors contributed equally to this paper.

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Correspondence to Paul Dunn.

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Dunn, P., Shome, A. Cultural Crossvergence and Social Desirability Bias: Ethical Evaluations by Chinese and Canadian Business Students. J Bus Ethics 85, 527–543 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-008-9787-z

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Keywords

  • business ethics
  • culture
  • students
  • international business