Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 313–323 | Cite as

Differences in the Perceptions of Moral Intensity in the Moral Decision Process: An Empirical Examination of Accounting Students

  • Deborah L. Leitsch
Article

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the impact of moral issues on the moral decision-making process within the field of accounting. In particular, the study examined differences in the perceptions of the underlying characteristics of moral issues on the specific steps of the moral decision-making process of four different accounting situations.

The research results suggested that student's perception of the components of moral intensity as well as the various stages of the moral decision-making process was influenced by the type and intensity of the moral issue. In general, accounting student's perceptions of the importance of these variables varied between less unethical and more unethical accounting issues. The differences in perceptions of four moral intensity components: magnitude of consequences, concentration of effect, probability of effect and proximity stood out more in the accounting issues analyzed.

The findings presented in this research extend the existing understanding about the importance of the components of moral intensity in the ethical decision-making process of accounting processionals. The results can be integrated into revised or newly adopted company codes of ethics to comply with the requirements of the newly enacted Sarbones-Oxley Act of 2002. They can also be used to enhance ethics coursework and training programs in educational settings and industry.

moral intensity ethics accounting business ethics moral issue 

References

  1. Ameen, E. C., D. M. Guffey and J. J. McMillan: 1996, 'Gender differences in determining the ethical sensitivity of future accounting professionals',Journal of Business Ethics 15, 591–597.Google Scholar
  2. Armstrong, M. B.: 1987, 'Moral development and accounting education', Journal of Accounting Education 5, 27–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett, T.: 2004, 'Dimensions of Moral Intensity and Ethical Decision Making: An Empirical Study', Journal of Applied Social Psychology 31(5), 1038–1057.Google Scholar
  4. Business Week, Accounting in Crisis; what needs to be done. January 28, 2002.Google Scholar
  5. Douglas, P., R. Davidson and B. Schwartz: 2001, 'The effect of organizational culture and ethical orientation on accountants' ethical judgments', Journal of Business Ethics 34, 101–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Flory, S. M., T. J. Phillips, R. E. Reidenbach and D. P. Robin: 1992, 'A multidimensional analysis of selected ethical issues in accounting', The Accounting Review 67(2), 284–302.Google Scholar
  7. Fritzsche, D. and H. Becker: 1983, 'Ethical behavior of marketing managers', Journal of Business Ethics 2, 291–299.Google Scholar
  8. Hair, J., R. Anderson and W. Tatham. R. Black: 1998, Multivariate Data Analysis (New Jersey: Prentice Hall).Google Scholar
  9. H.R., 107th, Cong., 2nd Congress: 2002, Sarbones-Oxley Act. Retrieved February 4, 2003. http:// frweb-gate. access.gpo.gov/cgibin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_bills&docid=f:h3763enr.txt.pdf.Google Scholar
  10. Jeffery, C.: 1993, 'Ethical development of accounting students, non-accounting business students, and liberal arts students', Issues in Accounting Education. Spring 8(1), 86–97.Google Scholar
  11. Jones, T. M.: 1999, 'Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An Issue-Contingent Model', Academy of Management Review 16(2), 366–395.Google Scholar
  12. Ketchand, A. A., R. E. Morris and W. E. Shafer: 1999, 'An analysis of the role of moral intensity in auditing judgments', Research on Accounting Ethics 5, 249–269.Google Scholar
  13. Low, T., L. Ferrell and P. Mansfield: 2000, 'A review of empirical studies assessing ethical decision-making in business', Journal of Business Ethics 25, 185–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. May, D. R. and K. P. Pauli: 2002, 'The role of moral intensity in ethical decision making: A review and investigation of moral recognition, evaluation, and intention', Business and Society 41(1), 85–118.Google Scholar
  15. Merritt, J.: 2002, 'For MBAs, Soul-Searching 101', Business Week 3799, 64–65.Google Scholar
  16. Morris, S. and R. A. McDonald: 1995, 'The role of moral intensity in moral judgments: An empirical investigation', Journal of Business Ethics 14, 715–726.Google Scholar
  17. Myers, R.: 2003, 'Ensuring ethical effectiveness', Journal of Accountancy 195(2), Retrieved from www.aicpa.org/ pubs/jofa/Joahome.htm.Google Scholar
  18. Nussbaum, B.: 2002, Can you trust anybody anymore? Business Week January 28, 30–33.Google Scholar
  19. Rest, J. R.: 1986, Moral Development: Advances in Research & Theory (New York: Praeger).Google Scholar
  20. Shafer, W. E., R. E. Morris and A. A. Ketchand: 1999, 'The effects of formal sanctions on auditor independence', Auditing 18, 85–101.Google Scholar
  21. Shaub, M. K.: 1994, 'An analysis of the association of traditional demographic variables with the moral reasoning of auditing students and auditors', Journal of Accounting Education 12(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Silver, L. and S. Valentine: 2001, 'College students' perceptions of moral intensity in sales situations', Journal of Education for Business 75(6), 309–314.Google Scholar
  23. Singhapakdi, A., S. J. Vitell and K. L. Kraft: 1996, 'Moral intensity and ethical decision-making of marketing professionals', Journal of Business Research 36, 245–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Singhapakdi, A., S. J. Vitell and G. R. Franke: 1999, 'Antecedents, consequences, and mediating effects of perceived moral intensity and personal moral philosophies', Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 27(1), 19–36.Google Scholar
  25. Weber, J.: 1990, 'Managers' moral reasoning: Assessing their responses to three moral dilemmas', Human Relations 43(7), 687–702.Google Scholar
  26. Weber, J.: 1999, 'Influences upon managerial moral decision-making: Nature of the harm and magnitude of consequences', Human Relations 49(1), 1–22.Google Scholar
  27. Wright, G. B. and C. P. Cullinan: 1997, 'The Relationship between an individual's value and perceptions of moral intensity: An empirical study', Behavioral Research in Accounting 9, 26–41.Google Scholar
  28. Wright, G. B., C. P. Cullinan and D. M. Bline: 1998, 'Recognizing ethical issues: The joint influence of ethical sensitivity and moral intensity', Research on Accounting Ethics 4, 29–52.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah L. Leitsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Goldey-Beacom CollegeWilmingtonU.S.A; E-mail:

Personalised recommendations