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Moral Intensity and Ethical Decision-making: An Empirical Examination of Undergraduate Accounting and Business Students


  • Breda Sweeney
  • Fiona Costello


Ethical decision-making is theorised to consist of four stages: identification of an ethical dilemma, ethical judgement, ethical intentions and ethical actions. The moral intensity of the situation has been found to influence the ethical decision-making process. Using a survey consisting of four scenarios, this study examined the relationship between perceived moral intensity and the first three stages of the ethical decision-making process for undergraduate accounting and other business students. Findings showed that the nature of the ethical dilemma in the scenarios impacted on perceived moral intensity and the ethical decision-making process. Moral intensity was found to be multi-dimensional in the study and the social consensus component of moral intensity demonstrated the strongest relationship with the ethical decision-making process. Differences were found between accounting and non-accounting students, though gender was not found to be significant. Implications of the findings and areas for future research are discussed in the paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Breda Sweeney & Fiona Costello, 2009. "Moral Intensity and Ethical Decision-making: An Empirical Examination of Undergraduate Accounting and Business Students," Accounting Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 75-97.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:accted:v:18:y:2009:i:1:p:75-97
    DOI: 10.1080/09639280802009454

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Niamh Brennan, 1998. "Accounting research : a practical guide," Open Access publications 10197/2924, Research Repository, University College Dublin.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ahmed Musbah & Christopher J. Cowton & David Tyfa, 2016. "The Role of Individual Variables, Organizational Variables and Moral Intensity Dimensions in Libyan Management Accountants’ Ethical Decision Making," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 134(3), pages 335-358, March.


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