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Societal-Level Versus Individual-Level Predictions of Ethical Behavior: A 48-Society Study of Collectivism and Individualism

Abstract

Is the societal-level of analysis sufficient today to understand the values of those in the global workforce? Or are individual-level analyses more appropriate for assessing the influence of values on ethical behaviors across country workforces? Using multi-level analyses for a 48-society sample, we test the utility of both the societal-level and individual-level dimensions of collectivism and individualism values for predicting ethical behaviors of business professionals. Our values-based behavioral analysis indicates that values at the individual-level make a more significant contribution to explaining variance in ethical behaviors than do values at the societal-level. Implicitly, our findings question the soundness of using societal-level values measures. Implications for international business research are discussed.

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Notes

  1. Taras et al. (2012) provide only regional scores for countries located in a number of geographic regions (e.g., Arab countries, Baltic USSR, Central America, and South America). Rather than assigning geographic region scores, which assumes a lack of inter-societal cultural variation within a geographic region, we only used values scores identified for individual countries. Taras et al. (2012) also provide meta-analytic VSM individualism/collectivism scores based on the full set of studies conducted 1970–2010. The results of HLM analyses (N = 29 societies) using these scores were the same (nonsignificant for all SIE dependent variables) as for the more recent set of scores based on studies conducted during the 2000s which we used to provide a more updated assessment of the VSM individualism/collectivism value.

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Correspondence to David A. Ralston.

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Ralston, D.A., Egri, C.P., Furrer, O. et al. Societal-Level Versus Individual-Level Predictions of Ethical Behavior: A 48-Society Study of Collectivism and Individualism. J Bus Ethics 122, 283–306 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1744-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1744-9

Keywords

  • Cultural values
  • Influence ethics
  • Hierarchical linear modeling
  • Collectivism
  • Individualism