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Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 14, 2017

Chen Kong, Ying Han Fan, Yan Chen, Ruchuan Jiang, Grantley Taylor
Pages 93-120

The Codes of Ethics for Accountants (Principles versus Rules)
A Student Sample Evidence

This study examines the effect of teaching ethics and the form of code of ethics (i.e., principles- versus rules-based) on auditors’ ethical decision making. We draw upon Rest’s (1986) decision-making model and Hunt and Vitell’s (1986) theory of marketing ethics to assist us with this examination. We use accounting students as substitutes for auditors in this study to enhance its internal validity as students are “subjects who would not already have detailed knowledge and experience of the Code” (Herrona and Gilbertson 2004, p. 510). The research method includes a survey and an experiment in the study. A between-subjects survey design with a sample of 271 students and a within-subjects experimental design with a sample of 146 students are used. A confirmatory factor analysis is conducted before other statistical methods are performed. Our results show that teaching codes of ethics improves accounting students’ awareness of audit independence issues and their ethical judgments and intentions. However, the form of a code of ethics does not make any significant difference in terms of the participants’ awareness of audit independence and their ethical judgments and intentions. Our study contributes to the debate on the effectiveness of principles-based versus rules-based codes of ethics and the importance of teaching ethics in non-Western economies.

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