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Moral Reasoning in Computer-Based Task Environments: Exploring the Interplay between Cognitive and Technological Factors on Individuals’ Propensity to Break Rules

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  • Jeffrey Roberts

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  • David Wasieleski

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    Abstract

    This study examines the relationship between cognitive moral development (CMD), productivity features of information technology (IT) and unethical behavior or misconduct. Using an experimental design that randomly assigns subjects to one of four unique technology conditions, we assess the relationship between a subjects’ predominant level of CMD and ethical misconduct on IT-oriented work tasks. Our results show that both higher levels of CMD and increased levels of IT productivity features at one’s disposal have a significant role to play in explaining observed behavior in our sample. We find that CMD as measured by the Defining Issues Test’s P-score is negatively related to task misconduct. Conversely, IT productivity features such as copy-and-paste are positively related to task misconduct. In addition, the CMD—misconduct relationship is significantly diminished by the introduction of IT productivity features. Lastly, a series of hazard analyses are conducted to explore the boundaries of our principal findings. These results demonstrate the significant role of technology in enabling negative behavior and the relative inability of subjects’ use of principled moral reasoning to overcome it. Implications of these findings for academics and business managers are offered, as well as recommendations for mitigating misconduct in both academic and workplace environments. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-011-1196-z
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

    Volume (Year): 110 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 3 (October)
    Pages: 355-376

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:110:y:2012:i:3:p:355-376

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    Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100281

    Related research

    Keywords: Cognitive moral development; Defining issues test; Ethical decision-making; Information technology; Rule violations;

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    1. Muel Kaptein & Mark Schwartz, 2008. "The Effectiveness of Business Codes: A Critical Examination of Existing Studies and the Development of an Integrated Research Model," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 77(2), pages 111-127, January.
    2. David Wasieleski & Sefa Hayibor, 2008. "Breaking the Rules: Examining the Facilitation Effects of Moral Intensity Characteristics on the Recognition of Rule Violations," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 78(1), pages 275-289, March.
    3. Bettman, James R & Luce, Mary Frances & Payne, John W, 1998. " Constructive Consumer Choice Processes," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(3), pages 187-217, December.
    4. Halvorsen, Robert & Palmquist, Raymond, 1980. "The Interpretation of Dummy Variables in Semilogarithmic Equations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 474-75, June.
    5. Lee Sproull & Sara Kiesler, 1986. "Reducing Social Context Cues: Electronic Mail in Organizational Communication," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(11), pages 1492-1512, November.
    6. Nina Mazar & Dan Ariely, 2006. "Dishonesty in everyday life and its policy implications," Working Papers 06-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    7. Nicole Andreoli & Joel Lefkowitz, 2009. "Individual and Organizational Antecedents of Misconduct in Organizations," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 85(3), pages 309-332, March.
    8. Helen Klein & Nancy Levenburg & Marie McKendall & William Mothersell, 2007. "Cheating During the College Years: How do Business School Students Compare?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 72(2), pages 197-206, May.
    9. Jennifer Kisamore & Thomas Stone & I. Jawahar, 2007. "Academic Integrity: The Relationship between Individual and Situational Factors on Misconduct Contemplations," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 75(4), pages 381-394, November.
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