Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 139–154

The Effect of Context on Moral Intensity of Ethical Issues: Revising Jones's Issue-Contingent Model

  • Patricia C. Kelley
  • Dawn R. Elm


Jones's (1991) issue-contingent model of ethical decision making posits that six dimensions of moral intensity influence decision makers' recognition of an issue as a moral problem and subsequent behavior. He notes that "organizational settings present special challenges to moral agents" (1991, p. 390) and that organizational factors affect "moral decision making and behavior at two points: establishing moral intent and engaging in moral behavior" (1991, p. 391). This model, however, minimizes both the impact of organizational setting and organizational factors on these experiences of ethical issues. In this theory, context is modeled as affecting the moral intent and behavior of the actor rather than directly affecting the issue's moral intensity. Here we look specifically at the effect of context on the moral intensity of ethical issues through a phenomenological study. Our results indicate that in certain environments, context may be critical in affecting the moral intensity of ethical issues. Thus, researchers should consider it more fully when assessing these issues' moral intensity.

contextual effects on ethical decision making ethical decision making ethical decision making in a social service context moral intensity revising Jones's issue-contingent model 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia C. Kelley
    • 1
  • Dawn R. Elm
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WashingtonBothell, BothellU.S.A.
  2. 2.College of BusinessUniversity of St. ThomasMinneapolisU.S.A.

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