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Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 9, 2012

Margaret Brunton, Gabriel Eweje
Pages 7-26

Teaching Ethics
The Role of Culture in Ethical Perceptions

This paper reports research carried out in a New Zealand university to revisit the question of whether national culture influences the perceptions of business students about ethical dimensions in somewhat ambiguous cases. Although this study demonstrated mixed results, the identified patterns in the data provide useful insight into the perceptions of diverse cultural groups. There are two main findings. First, the study provides an example which demonstrates that although Hofstede’s (1991) dimensions of individualism and collectivism illustrate important differences, using these dimensions without consideration of the micro-context within geographical borders may result in variable outcomes. Second, the qualitative data revealed greater variability within cultures than would have been the case using purely quantitative data. Despite the similarity of the educational qualification these students receive, their perceptions of ethical and moral dilemmas in workplace scenarios do vary, primarily explained as an appeal to a deontological or teleological rationale, within as well as between cultural cohorts. Such insight into cultural differences is an integral component for those educators involved in curriculum development in the future.

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