Skip to main content

Ethical Behavioral Intention in an Academic Setting: Models and Predictors

Abstract

This study examines the theory of planned behavior (TPB) and the multidimensional ethics scale (MES). Variables from both are included to determine which ones significantly correlate with student ethical behavioral intention in an academic setting. Using a survey, responses are collected from undergraduate business students from two southwestern universities in the United States using a scenario-based approach, looking at individual situations and group situations. SmartPLS was used to assess the results for four scenarios. From the theory of planned behavior, attitude was a significant predictor of behavioral intention across all four scenarios while subjective norm was significant in one scenario. From the multidimensional ethics scale, moral equity and relativism were significant in one group scenario while moral equity and utilitarianism were each significant in an individual scenario. The findings indicate support for the use of the TPB and the MES when exploring ethics in an academic setting and for the need to study both individual and group situations. A discussion of the findings and implications is given.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. MES can also be used to determine influences on peer intention and ethical awareness. Peer intention is an individual’s assessment of how he believes others his age would intend to act in a given situation. Ethical awareness is an individual’s assessment of the person’s action in the given situation as being ethical or unethical. Since TPB does not assess these dependent variables, they are excluded from the MES assessment for this study.

  2. Even though MES can be used to assess three dependent variables – behavioral intention, peer intention, and ethical awareness – only behavioral intention was gathered for this study since behavioral intention is the common dependent variable between the MES and TPB.

References

  • Ajzen, I. (1985). From intentions to actions: a theory of planned behavior. In J. Kuhl & J. Beckmann (Eds.), Action control: from cognition to behavior. New York: Springer-Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ajzen, I. (1989). Attitude, structure and behavior. In A. R. Pratkanis, S. J. Breckler, & A. G. Greenwald (Eds.), Attitude, structure and function. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1969). The prediction of behavior intentions in a choice situation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 5, 400–416.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Banerjee, D., Cronan, T. P., & Jones, T. W. (1998). Modeling IT ethics: a study of situational ethics. MIS Quarterly, 22(1), 31–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bloodgood, J. M., Turnley, W. H., & Mudrack, P. E. (2010). Ethics instruction and the perceived acceptability of cheating. Journal of Business Ethics, 95(1), 23–37.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carpenter, T. D., & Reimers, J. L. (2005). Unethical and fraudulent financial reporting: applying the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 60(2), 115–129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chang, M. K. (1998). Predicting unethical behavior: a comparison of the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 17, 1825–1834.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen, M., Pan, C., & Pan, M. (2009). The joint moderating impact of moral intensity and moral judgment on consumer’s use intention of pirated software. Journal of Business Ethics, 90, 361–373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chin, W. W. (1998). The partial least squares approach for structural equation modeling. In G. A. Marcoulides (Ed.), Modern methods for business research (pp. 295–336). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chin, W. W., & Newsted, P. R. (1999). Structural equation modeling analysis with small samples using partial least squares. In R. H. Hoyle (Ed.), Statistical strategies for small sample research (pp. 307–341). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clark, J. W., & Dawson, L. E. (1996). Personal religiousness and ethical judgements: an empirical analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 15, 359–372.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J. R., Pant, L. W., & Sharp, D. J. (1996). A methodological note on cross-cultural accounting ethics research. The International Journal of Accounting, 31(1), 55–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cox, J. C. (2002). Trust, reciprocity, and other-regarding preferences: groups vs. individuals and males vs. females. In R. Zwick & A. Rapoport (Eds.), Experimental business research (pp. 331–350). Boston: Kluwer Academic.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Craft, J. L. (2013). A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 2004-2011. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(2), 221–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cronan, T. P., & Al-Rafee, S. (2008). Factors that influence the intention to pirate software and media. Journal of Business Ethics, 78, 527–545.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dana, J., Weber, R. A., & Kuang, J. X. (2007). Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness. Economic Theory, 33(1), 67–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Darley, J. M., & Latane, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8(4), 377–383.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Devine, D. J., Clayton, L. D., Philips, J. L., Dunford, B. B., & Melner, S. B. (1999). Teams in organizations: prevalence, characteristics, and effectiveness. Small Group Research, 30(6), 678–711.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ellman, M., & Pezanis-Christou, P. (2010). Organizational structure, communication, and group ethics. American Economic Review, 100, 2478–2491.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fay, D., Shipton, H., West, M. A., & Patterson, M. (2015). Teamwork and organizational innovation: the moderating role of the HRM context. Teamwork and Organizational Innovation, 24(2), 261–277.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention and behavior: an introduction to theory and research. Reading: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ford, R. C., & Richardson, W. D. (1994). Ethical decision making: a review of the empirical literature. Journal of Business Ethics, 13(3), 205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(1), 39–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gefen, D., Rigdon, E. E., & Straub, D. (2011). An update and extension to SEM guidelines for administrative and social science research. MIS Quarterly, 35(2), 3–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haines, R., & Leonard, L. N. K. (2007). Situational influences on ethical decision-making in an IT context. Information & Management, 44, 313–320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hair, J. F., Black, B., Babin, B., Anderson, R. E., & Tatham, R. L. (2006). Multivariate Data Analysis (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hair, J. F., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2011). PLS-SEM: indeed a silver bullet. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, Special Issue on the Use of Partial Least Squares (PLS), 19(2), 139–151.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Henle, C. A., Reeve, C. L., & Pitts, V. E. (2010). Stealing time at work: attitudes, social pressure, and perceived control as predictors of time theft. Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 53–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hinman, L. (2005). Virtual virtues: reflections on academic integrity in the age of the internet. The Impact of the Internet on our Moral Lives (Cavelier, ed.), 49–67.

  • Hoffman, J. J. (1998). Are women really more ethical than men? Maybe it depends on the situation. Journal of Managerial Issues, 10(1), 60–73.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ilgen, D. R. (1999). Teams embedded in organizations. American Psychologist, 54(2), 129–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, D. C., & Kato, T. (2011). The impact of teams on output, quality, and downtime: an empirical analysis using individual panel data. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 64(2), 215–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kara, A., Rojas-Mendez, J. I., & Turan, M. (2016). Ethical evaluations of business students in an emerging market: effect of ethical sensitivity, cultural values, personality and religiosity. Journal of Academic Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10805-016-9263-9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klein, H. A., Levenburg, N. M., McKendall, M., & Mothersell, W. (2007). Cheating during the college years: how do business school students compare? Journal of Business Ethics, 72, 197–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lehnert, K., Park, Y., & Singh, N. (2015). Research note and review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: boundary conditions and extensions. Journal of Business Ethics, 129(1), 195–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leonard, L. N. K., & Cronan, T. P. (2001). Illegal, inappropriate, and unethical behavior in an information technology context: a study to explain influences. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 1(12), 1–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leonard, L. N. K., Cronan, T. P., & Kreie, J. (2004). What influences IT ethical behavior intentions – planned behavior, reasoned action, perceived importance, or individual characteristics? Information & Management, 42, 143–158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liao, C., Lin, H., & Liu, Y. (2010). Predicting the use of pirated software: a contingency model integrating perceived risk with the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 91, 237–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loch, K. D., & Conger, S. (1996). Evaluating ethical decision making and computer use. Communications of the ACM, 39(7), 74–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loo, R. (2004). Support for Reidenbach and Robin’s (1990) eight-item multidimensional ethics scale. The Social Sciences Journal, 41, 289–294.

    Google Scholar 

  • Low, T. W., Ferrell, L., & Mansfield, P. (2000). A review of empirical studies assessing ethical decision making in business. Journal of Business Ethics, 25(3), 185–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Manly, T. S., Riemenschneider, C. K., & Leonard, L. N. K. (2014). Academic integrity in the information age: virtues of respect and responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 127, 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • McNichols, C. W., & Zimmerer, T. W. (1985). Situational ethics: an empirical study of differentiators of student attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 4(3), 175–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nguyen, N. T., & Biderman, M. D. (2008). Studying ethical judgments and behavioral intentions using structural equations: evidence from the multidimensional ethics scale. Journal of Business Ethics, 83, 627–640.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nguyen, N. T., Basuray, M. T., Smith, W. P., Kopka, D., & McCulloh, D. N. (2008). Ethics perception: does teaching make a difference? Journal of Education for Business, 84, 66–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O'Fallon, M. J., & Butterfield, K. D. (2005). A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 1996-2003. Journal of Business Ethics, 59(4), 375–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Phau, I., & Ng, J. (2010). Predictors of usage intentions of pirated software. Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 23–37.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Phau, I., Lim, A., Liang, J., & Lwin, M. (2014). Engaging in digital piracy of movies: a theory of planned behavior approach. Internet Research, 24(2), 246–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Plowman, S., & Goode, S. (2009). Factors affecting the intention to download music: quality perceptions and downloading intensity. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 49(4), 84–97.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reidenbach, R. E., & Robin, D. P. (1990). Toward the development of a multidimensional scale for improving evaluations of business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 9(8), 639–653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reidenbach, R. E., & Robin, D. P. (1998). Some initial steps toward improving the measurement of ethical evaluations of marketing activities. Journal of Business Ethics, 7, 871–879.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reidenbach, R. E., Robin, D. P., & Dawson, L. (1991). An application and extension of a multidimensional ethics scale to selected marketing practices and marketing groups. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 19(2), 83–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robertson, K., McNeill, L., Green, J., & Roberts, C. (2012). Illegal downloading, ethical concern, and illegal behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 108, 215–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robin, D. P., Gordon, G., Jordan, C., & Reidenbach, R. E. (1996). The empirical performance of cognitive moral development in predicting behavioral intent. Business Ethics Quarterly, 6(4), 493–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ross, W. (1930). The right and good. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, S. H., & Tessler, R. C. (1972). A test of a model for reducing measured attitude-behavior discrepancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24(2), 225–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shawver, T. J., & Sennetti, J. T. (2009). Measuring ethical sensitivity and evaluation. Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 663–678.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Simkin, M. G., & McLeod, A. (2010). Why do college students cheat? Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 441–453.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Siu, N. Y. M., Dickinson, J. R., & Lee, B. Y. Y. (2000). Ethical evaluations of business activities and personal religiousness. Teaching Business Ethics, 4, 239–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stone, T. H., Jawahar, I. M., & Kisamore, J. L. (2009). Using the theory of planned behavior and cheating justifications to predict academic misconduct. Career Development International, 14(3), 221–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Straub, D., Boudreau, M.-C., & Gefen, D. (2004). Validation guidelines for IS positivist research. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 13, 380–427.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taft, S. H., & White, J. (2007). Ethics education: using inductive reasoning to develop individual, group, organizational, and global perspectives. Journal of Management Education, 31(5), 614–646.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wang, C., Chen, C., Yang, S., & Farn, C. (2009). Pirate or buy? The moderating effect of idolatry. Journal of Business Ethics, 90, 81–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodbine, G. F., & Amirthalingam, V. (2013). Cheat and you lose! Don’t cheat and you lose! Reflections and analysis of accounting student data. Journal of Academic Ethics, 11, 311–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yoon, C. (2011). Theory of planned behavior and ethics theory in digital piracy: an integrated model. Journal of Business Ethics, 100(3), 405–417.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lori N. K. Leonard.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Appendices

Appendix 1

Table 6

Table 6 Instrument Sources

Appendix 2 Instrument Items

Table 7

Table 7 Placement Essay scenario instrument (see Appendix 3 for the exact scenario)

Table 8

Table 8 Internet plagiarism scenario instrument

Table 9

Table 9 Chat room scenario instrument

Table 10

Table 10 Collaborative programming scenario instrument

Appendix 3

Table 11

Table 11 Summary of scenarios

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Leonard, L.N.K., Riemenschneider, C.K. & Manly, T.S. Ethical Behavioral Intention in an Academic Setting: Models and Predictors. J Acad Ethics 15, 141–166 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-017-9273-2

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-017-9273-2

Keywords

  • Ethical behavior
  • Multidimensional ethics scale (MES)
  • Theory of planned behavior (TPB)