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A study of whistleblowing inaction using decision avoidance and affective forecasting theories: Effects on financial vs. other types of wrongdoing

Amy J Fredin, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this study is to enlighten researchers and practitioners, alike, as to the whistleblowing effects of decision avoidance and affective forecasting tendencies, given the large proportion of individuals who have been shown to sit back and do nothing about wrongdoing that they have observed. There exists a vast amount of research in the whistleblowing stream, including more recent lines that address emotion as well as moral intensity. The extant literature, however, neglects to consider how one's anticipated emotions may play a role in observers' decisions to stay silent. The present study goes beyond anticipated emotion, however, as it allows for the possibility that these regret with inaction effects may differ according to both the moral intensity of the issue as well as the broader type of wrongdoing—financial or non-financial. Since the lack of whistleblowing reports is not specific to any one type of wrongdoing, this multi-disciplinary approach provides for a more comprehensive understanding of the issues. ^ A 2x2x2 between-subjects experimental design was employed to assess the relationships of interest. Subjects predicted regret for the main character in their ethical scenario, and further described what the sources of their regret were. Because descriptive, categorical data was collected in addition to the primary response variable, two types of analyses were conducted. The primary ANOVA, using the predicted regret scores as the dependent variable, yielded two different significant, two-way interactions. ^ A significant three-way interaction was found, however, in the logistic ANOVA, using presence/absence of regret description—for three different descriptions—as the dependent variable. This detailed analysis allowed for more subtle differences in the regret scores to be understood. Overall, the findings suggest that individuals aware of ethical situations of varying types and moral intensity levels think about regret differently when regret is salient for staying silent as opposed to when regret is salient for blowing the whistle.^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Accounting|Psychology, Behavioral

Recommended Citation

Fredin, Amy J, "A study of whistleblowing inaction using decision avoidance and affective forecasting theories: Effects on financial vs. other types of wrongdoing" (2008). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3330849.