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The Influence of Unethical Peer Behavior on Observers’ Unethical Behavior: A Social Cognitive Perspective


  • Michael O’Fallon


  • Kenneth Butterfield



The relationship between unethical peer behavior and observers’ unethical behavior traditionally has been examined from a social learning perspective. We employ two additional theoretical lenses, social identity theory and social comparison theory, each of which offers additional insight into this relationship. Data from 600 undergraduate business students in two universities provide support for all the three perspectives, suggesting that unethical behavior is influenced by social learning, social identity, and social comparison processes. Implications for managers and future research are discussed. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Michael O’Fallon & Kenneth Butterfield, 2012. "The Influence of Unethical Peer Behavior on Observers’ Unethical Behavior: A Social Cognitive Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 109(2), pages 117-131, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:109:y:2012:i:2:p:117-131
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-011-1111-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dubinsky, Alan J. & Loken, Barbara, 1989. "Analyzing ethical decision making in marketing," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 83-107, September.
    2. Michael O’Fallon & Kenneth Butterfield, 2011. "Moral Differentiation: Exploring Boundaries of the “Monkey See, Monkey Do” Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 102(3), pages 379-399, September.
    3. Treviño, Linda Klebe & Butterfield, Kenneth D. & McCabe, Donald L., 1998. "The Ethical Context in Organizations: Influences on Employee Attitudes and Behaviors," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 447-476, July.
    4. Geert Hofstede, 1998. "Identifying Organizational Subcultures: An Empirical Approach," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(1), pages 1-12, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:jbuset:v:146:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2939-z is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Elodie Gentina & Gregory M. Rose & Scott J. Vitell, 2016. "Ethics During Adolescence: A Social Networks Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 138(1), pages 185-197, September.
    3. Franziska Zuber, 2015. "Spread of Unethical Behavior in Organizations: A Dynamic Social Network Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 131(1), pages 151-172, September.
    4. repec:kap:jbuset:v:142:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2753-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Duanxu Wang & Xin Pi & Yuhao Pan, 0. "The interpersonal diffusion mechanism of unethical behavior in groups: a social network perspective," Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-22.
    6. repec:eee:jfpoli:v:74:y:2018:i:c:p:39-52 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Franziska Zuber & Muel Kaptein, 2014. "Painting with the Same Brush? Surveying Unethical Behavior in the Workplace Using Self-Reports and Observer-Reports," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 401-432, December.
    8. repec:spr:comaot:v:23:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10588-016-9226-0 is not listed on IDEAS


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