Whistle-Blowing in the Classroom: The Influence of Students’ Perceptions of Whistleblowers

  • Richard A. BernardiEmail author
  • Evan S. Goetjen
  • Jennifer M. Brax
Part of the Advances in Business Ethics Research book series (ABER, volume 4)


This study surveyed 309 business students (180 men and 129 women) enrolled in introductory accounting and business law classes on various aspects of honesty in academics. The study examines students’ perceptions of whistleblowers and whether these perceptions associate with their intentions to blow the whistle if they observe cheating. When examining a student’s intent to blow the whistle, we considered students’ prior cheating behavior, gender, social desirability response bias, intentions to cheat in the future, perceptions of whistleblowers, and prior blowing the whistle. Our research indicates that students who had blown the whistle in the past and/or had positive perceptions of whistleblowers were more likely to blow the whistle in the future. Knowing a student who regularly cheats, or having observed a student cheating, reduced the probability of blowing the whistle in the future. Finally, students who have cheated on a minor examination were also less likely to blow the whistle in the future.


Unethical Behavior Positive Perception Academic Dishonesty Cheat Behavior Desirable Manner 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank Marc Julien and Jeffrey Mullany for their assistance in an earlier version of this research.


  1. Alicke, M.D. 1993. Egocentric standards of conduct evaluation. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 14(2): 171–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ameen, E., D.M. Guffey, and J.J. McMillan. 1996. Accounting students perceptions of questionable academic practices and factors affecting their propensity to cheat. Accounting Education 5(3): 191–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Apostolou, B., and N. Apostolou. 1997. Heroes as a context for teaching ethics. The Journal of Education for Business 73(2): 121–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Armstrong, M.B., J.E. Ketz, and D. Owsen. 2003. Ethics education in accounting: Moving toward ethical motivation and ethical behavior. Journal of Accounting Education 21(1): 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnold, V., J.C. Lampe, and S.G. Sutton. 1997. Understanding the factors underlying ethical organizations: Enabling continuous improvement. Journal of Applied Business Research 15(3): 1–18.Google Scholar
  6. Ayers, S., and S.E. Kaplan. 2005. Wrongdoing by consultants: An examination of employees’ reporting intentions. Journal of Business Ethics 57(2): 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baack, D., C. Fogliasso, and J. Harris. 2000. The personal impact of ethical decisions: A social penetration theory. Journal of Business Ethics 24(1): 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Badaracco Jr., J.L., and A.P. Webb. 1995. Business ethics: A view from the trenches. California Management Review 37(2): 8–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bernardi, R.A., and K.L. Adamaitis. 2007. Data contamination by social desirability response bias: An international study of students’ cheating behavior. Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting 11: 157–184.Google Scholar
  10. Bernardi, R.A., C.A. Banzhoff, A.M. Martino, and K.J. Savasta. 2011. Cheating and whistle blowing in the classroom. Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting 15: 165–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bernardi, R.A., C.A. Banzhoff, A.M. Martino, and K.J. Savasta. 2012a. Challenges to academic integrity: Identifying the factors associated with the cheating chain. Accounting Education: An International Journal 21(3): 247–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bernardi, R.A., M.B. Larkin, L.A. LaBontee, R.A. Lapierre, and N.C. Morse. 2012b. Classroom cheating: Reasons not to whistle-blow and the probability of whistle-blowing. Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting 16: 203–233.Google Scholar
  13. Boisjoly, R.P., E.F. Curtis, and E. Mellican. 1989. Roger Boisjoly and the challenger disaster: The ethical dimensions. Journal of Business Ethics 8(4): 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bolino, M.C., M.K. Kacmar, W.H. Turnley, and J.B. Gilstrap. 2008. A multi-level review of impression management motives and behaviors. Journal of Management 34(6): 1080–1109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bruce, T. 2003. The death of right and wrong: Exposing the left’s assault on our culture and values. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  16. CBSNEWS. 2011. Wigand: 60 minutes’ most famous whistleblower. August 21.
  17. Central Intelligence Agency. 2012. Gross domestic product – Official exchange rate.
  18. Collins, S.M. 1985. Today’s kids and hero worship: Who can they look up to? English Journal 74(5): 21.Google Scholar
  19. Crowne, D.P., and D. Marlowe. 1960. A new scale of social desirability independent of psychology. Journal of Consulting Psychology 24(4): 349–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Davis, S.F., C.A. Grover, A.H. Becker, and L.N. McGregor. 1992. Academic dishonesty: Prevalence, determinants, techniques, and punishments. Teaching of Psychology 19(1): 16–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Decker, W.H., and T.J. Calo. 2007. The heart of virtue: Lessons from life and literature illustrating the beauty and value of moral character. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.Google Scholar
  22. DeMarco, D. 1996. Observers’ impressions of unethical persons and whistleblowers. Journal of Business Ethics 76(3): 309–318.Google Scholar
  23. Diekhoff, G.M., E.E. LaBeff, R.E. Clark, L.E. Williams, B. Francis, and V.J. Haines. 1996. College cheating: Ten years later. Research in Higher Education 37(4): 487–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dobson, J., and M.B. Armstrong. 1995. Application of virtue ethics theory. Research on Accounting Ethics 1: 187–202.Google Scholar
  25. Ethics Resource Center. 2012. 2011 national business ethics survey: Workplace ethics in transition.
  26. Falk, H. 1995. Professional services and ethical behavior. Research on Accounting Ethics 1: 203–212.Google Scholar
  27. Fernandes, M.F., and D.M. Randall. 1992. The nature of social desirability bias in ethics research. Business Ethics Quarterly 2(2): 183–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Finn, D.W. 1995. Ethical decision making in organizations: A management employee-organization whistle-blowing model. Research on Accounting Ethics 1: 291–313.Google Scholar
  29. Fragale, A.R., B. Rosen, C. Xu, and I. Merideth. 2009. The higher they are, the harder they fall: The effects of wrongdoer status on observer punishment recommendations and intentionality attributions. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process 108(1): 53–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Frank, R., and A. Efrati. 2009. Evil Madoff gets 150 years in epic fraud. The Wall Street Journal. June 30.
  31. Grant, C. 2002. Whistle-blowers: Saints of secular culture. Journal of Business Ethics 39(4): 391–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Grimes, P.W. 2004. Dishonesty in academics and business: A cross-cultural evaluation of student attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics 49(3): 273–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hofstede, G. 2001. Culture’s consequences, 2nd ed. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  34. Jendrek, M.P. 1992. Students’ reactions to academic dishonesty. Journal of College Student Development 33(3): 260–273.Google Scholar
  35. Kaplan, S., K. Pany, J. Samuels, and J. Zhang. 2009. An examination of the association between gender and reporting intentions for fraudulent financial reporting. Journal of Business Ethics 87(1): 15–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lanyon, R.I., and A.C. Carle. 2007. Internal and external validity of scores on the balanced inventory of desirable responding and the Paulhus deception scales. Education and Psychological Measurement 67(5): 859–876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lawson, R.A. 2004. Is classroom cheating related to business students’ propensity to cheat in the ‘Real World’? Journal of Business Ethics 49(2): 189–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Longstaff, S. 2012. Public interest whistleblowing. In Think piece, 2–9. Sydney: St. James Ethics Centre.Google Scholar
  39. Lucas, G.M., and J. Friedrich. 2005. Individual differences in workplace deviance and integrity as predictors of academic dishonesty. Ethics & Behavior 15(1): 15–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. MacIntyre, A. 1984. After virtue. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  41. McCabe, D.L., L.K. Trevino, and K.D. Butterfield. 1999. Academic integrity in honor-code and non honor-code environments: A qualitative investigation. Journal of Higher Education 70(2): 211–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McCabe, D.L., L.K. Trevino, and K.D. Butterfield. 2001. Dishonesty in academic environments: The influence of peer reporting requirements. Journal of Higher Education 72(1): 29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Miceli, M.P., and J.P. Near. 1984. The relationships among beliefs, organizational position, and whistle-blowing status: A discriminant analysis. Academy of Management Journal 27: 687–705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mintz, S. 2012a. Public interest whistleblowing. In Think piece, 2–9. Sydney: St. James Ethics Centre.Google Scholar
  45. Mintz, S. 2012b. Retaliation against whistleblowers in the workplace on the rise. In Think piece, 1. Sydney: St. James Ethics Centre.Google Scholar
  46. Nitsch, D., M. Baetz, and J.C. Hughes. 2005. Why code of conduct violations go unreported: A conceptual framework to guide intervention and future research. Journal of Business Ethics 57(4): 327–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Paulhus, D.L. 1991. Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (BIDR). In Measures of personality and psychological attitudes, vol. 1, ed. J.P. Robinson, P.R. Shaver, and L.S. Wrightsman, 37–41. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  48. Paulhus, D.L. 1998. Paulhus Deception Scales (PDS): The balanced inventory of desirable responding – 7. North Tonawanda: Multi Health Systems.Google Scholar
  49. Perry, G.M., and C.J. Nixon. 2005. The influence of role models on negotiation ethics of college students. Journal of Business Ethics 62(1): 25–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pfarrer, M.D., K.A. Decelles, K.G. Smith, and M.S. Taylor. 2008. After the fall: Reintegrating the corrupt organization. The Academy of Management Review 33(3): 730–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Premeaux, S.R. 2005. Undergraduate student perceptions regarding cheating: Tier 1 versus tier 2 AACSB accredited business schools. Journal of Business Ethics 62(4): 407–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Randall, D.M., and A.M. Gibson. 1990. Methodology in business ethics research: A review and critical assessment. Journal of Business Ethics 9(6): 457–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rennie, S.C., and J.R. Crosby. 2002. Students’ perceptions of whistle blowing: Implications for self-regulation. A questionnaire and focus group survey. Medical Education 36(2): 173–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rest, J., M. Bebeau, and J. Volker. 1986. Chapter 1: An overview of the psychology of morality. In Moral development: Advances in research and theory. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  55. Rothfield, M. 2012. In Gupta sentencing, a judgment call. The Wall Street Journal.
  56. Rothschild, J., and T.D. Miethe. 1999. Whistle-blower disclosures and management retaliation: The battle to control information about organizational corruption. Work and Occupations 26(1): 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rothwell, G.R., and J.N. Baldwin. 2007. Ethical climate theory, whistle-blowing, and the code of silence in police agencies in the state of Georgia. Journal of Business Ethics 70(4): 341–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Salter, S.B., D.M. Guffey, and J.J. McMillan. 2001. Truth, consequences and culture: A comparative examination of cheating and attitudes about cheating among U.S. And U.K. students. Journal of Business Ethics 31(1): 37–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sims, R. 1993. The relationship between academic dishonesty and unethical business practices. The Journal of Education for Business 68(4): 207–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Smyth, M.L., and J.R. Davis. 2003. An examination of student cheating in the two-year college. Community College Review 31(1): 17–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Transparency International. 2011. 2011 corruption perceptions index.
  62. Trevino, L.K., and B. Victor. 1992. Peer reporting of unethical behavior: A social context perspective. Academy of Management Journal 35(1): 38–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Weaver, G.R., L.K. Trevino, and B. Agle. 2005. Ethical role models in organizations. Organizational Dynamics 34(4): 313–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Webster’s New American Dictionary. 1995. New York: Smithmark Publishers.Google Scholar
  65. Welsh, J.F. 1993. Student academic dishonesty in higher education: Social context and institutional response. Unpublished Report, Kansas Board of Regents, Topeka.Google Scholar
  66. Whitley, B.E., and C.R. Kost. 1999. College students’ perceptions of peers who cheat. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 29(8): 1732–1760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wise, T.D. 1995. An analysis of factors proposed to affect the decision to blow the whistle on unethical acts. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Louisiana Tech University.Google Scholar
  68. Zerbe, W.J., and D.L. Paulhus. 1987. Socially desirable responding in organizational behavior: A reconception. Academy of Management Journal 12(2): 250–264.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Bernardi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Evan S. Goetjen
    • 1
  • Jennifer M. Brax
    • 1
  1. 1.Gabelli School of BusinessRoger Williams UniversityBristolUSA

Personalised recommendations