The Relationship between Worldview and Moral Recognition in Business: Examining Patterns of Ethical Acceptability: An Abstract
Many continue to lament the field’s myopic focus on bottom-line thinking and business skills. Such critiques question how best to prepare and educate our charges, both practitioners and students alike, for the ethical challenges they face. Ethical decision-making has received ongoing attention by marketers (Ferrellet al. 1989). However, this paper responds to a need for clarity in understanding how ethical decisions are framed and formed by examining whether a specific antecedent, worldviews, play a role in moral judgements (Giacalone and Thompson 2006).
Worldviews reflect a set of beliefs about the nature of the world around us. Koltko-Rivera (2004) argued these frameworks exert a powerful effect on cognition and behavior in individuals and have the potential to actively cue moral recognition (Jones 1991) and shape judgments of an ethical issue’s acceptability. Systems theory, which incorporates a state-space approach to explain complex phenomena, provided a simplistic overview of worldview beliefs. Classification of worldviews as either closed or open referred primarily to whether adherents in each case believe a capacity for interaction exists between the physical or metaphysical systems. Open system worldviews believe that exchange between physical-metaphysical systems is both possible and probable, whereas closed system beliefs confine reality to the physical domain.
To answer whether worldviews influence moral recognition of ethical dilemmas, the current study surveyed 1983 subjects. Five-hundred twenty of the participants were business professionals, and 1463 were students. Respondents recorded how ethically acceptable 25 different business scenarios were and then completed classification questions that denoted whether their worldview operated as either an open or closed systems (Conroy and Emerson 2004).
Regression results found a small, significant, negative relationship between an open system worldview and average level of ethical acceptability. Individuals with open systems views were less likely to find certain business practices ethical. Results indicate that worldview beliefs were better predictors of ethical decision-making than race, age, or gender, a finding that was consistent across both the student and practitioner samples reported. While both worldview systems agree that physical harm scenarios are bad, open system adherents were more likely to note other scenarios as more unacceptable. Discussion centers on the nature of worldview beliefs in framing moral recognition and the acceptability of different ethical dilemmas.
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