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The Importance of Moral Intensity: An Application to Ethical Food Issues


  • Bennett, Richard
  • Pfuderer, Simone


In this study we analyse moral decision making in a food related setting. Jones (1991) argues that ethical issues vary in their perceived moral intensity, where moral intensity is “the extent of issuerelated moral imperative in a situation”. According to Jones, moral intensity is an issue-related construct that is made up of six main components: magnitude of consequences, social consensus, probability of effect, temporal immediacy, proximity and concentration of effect. The moral intensity of an issue affects all stages of moral decision making. We measure the relative importance of different dimensions of moral intensity in a food related setting. We carry out a survey to investigate the impact of varying components of moral intensity in two setting where a food producer sells potentially harmful products. The aim is to measure how changes in these dimensions impact on individuals’ assessment of these dimensions as well as two stages in the ethical decision process.. We find a complexity of issues relating to how people consider morality in food production and consumption and the importance of the specific context to moral decision making.

Suggested Citation

  • Bennett, Richard & Pfuderer, Simone, 2018. "The Importance of Moral Intensity: An Application to Ethical Food Issues," 92nd Annual Conference, April 16-18, 2018, Warwick University, Coventry, UK 273488, Agricultural Economics Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aesc18:273488
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.273488

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sean Valentine & David Hollingworth, 2012. "Moral Intensity, Issue Importance, and Ethical Reasoning in Operations Situations," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 108(4), pages 509-523, July.
    2. Bennett, Richard & Blaney, Ralph, 2002. "Social consensus, moral intensity and willingness to pay to address a farm animal welfare issue," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 501-520, August.
    3. Singhapakdi, Anusorn & Vitell, Scott J. & Kraft, Kenneth L., 1996. "Moral Intensity and Ethical Decision-Making of Marketing Professionals," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 245-255, July.
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