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Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 10, 2013

Greg L. Lowhorn, Eric D. Bostwick, Lonnie D. Smith
Pages 83-102
DOI: 10.5840/jbee2013105

Do Business Students Have an Ethical Blind Spot?

In this study, undergraduate business students indicated the degree to which three activities were ethical or unethical, how likely they would be to commit each action, and how likely they thought the average student would be to commit each action. Significant declines in ethicality were found between comparisons of the ethical appropriateness of each scenario and the students’ personal intentions to commit the action, and between personal intention and the students’ perceptions of other students’ actions. The comparison between self and others was attenuated by academic classification with seniors perceiving their peers’ behavior as similar to their own. This demonstrates that business students do have an ethical blind spot both in acting contrary to their own stated ethical beliefs and in believing that their peers will commit unethical actions while they would not. We encourage faculty to develop reflective curricula that require students to actively engage in ethical decision-making. In addition, ethical training should, when possible, address the entire ethical decision-making process, from awareness, to intention, to actual behavior. Finally, students should be made aware of the unfounded disparities between their perceptions of their own actions and their perceptions of their peers’ actions.

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