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Enhancing moral intensity: An informational model of ethical decision making

Loy Dean Watley, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Research in ethical decision making has shown that individuals treat important issues differently than trivial issues, a distinction Jones (1991) called “moral intensity”. While moral intensity's influence on various measures of ethical decision making (i.e. awareness, judgment, intent, behavior) has been investigated, the factors that influence moral intensity have not been widely examined. Using an important, but often-overlooked context, employee safety, this study investigates how the presence of (a) information regarding consequences and (b) personal information regarding the potential victim influences perceptions of moral intensity and, ultimately, ethical behavioral intent. In addition, the study also examines the moderating influence of the individual's ethical ideology and the organization's ethical climate. Hypotheses were proposed and tested using professional managers. This study found that personal information impacted ethical behavioral intent through its influence on perceptions of proximity. In contrast, consequential information only impacted perceptions of the magnitude of consequences when personal information was not available and only impacted ethical behavioral intent when subjects had little prior knowledge. ^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Management

Recommended Citation

Watley, Loy Dean, "Enhancing moral intensity: An informational model of ethical decision making" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3045543.