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The Strategic Samaritan: How Effectiveness and Proximity Affect Corporate Responses to External Crises

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2015

Jennifer Jordan
University of Groningen
Daniel A. Diermeier
Northwestern University
Adam D. Galinsky
Northwestern University


This research examines how two dimensions of moral intensity involved in a corporation’s external crisis response—magnitude of effectiveness and interpersonal proximity—influence observer perceptions of and behavioral intentions toward the corporation. Across three studies, effectiveness decreased negative perceptions and increased pro-organizational intentions via ethical judgment of the response. Moreover, the two dimensions interacted such that a response high in proximity but low in effectiveness led to more negative perceptions and to less pro-organizational intentions. This interaction was particularly pronounced if the corporation portrayed itself as communal-oriented. The interaction was mediated by individuals’ ethical judgment, which was a function of the corporation’s perceived benevolent concern. We termed the interaction the Strategic Samaritan, for it was when the corporation tried to appear like a Good Samaritan, displaying proximity with victims but not accompanying it with effective help, that it was seen as acting with less benevolent concern.

Copyright © Society for Business Ethics 2012

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