Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-9m8n8 Total loading time: 0.3 Render date: 2022-09-27T18:53:39.339Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Experimental Evidence Relating to the Person-Situation Interactionist Model of Ethical Decision Making

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2015


According to a widely credited model in the business ethics literature, ethical decisions are a function of two kinds of factors, personal (individual) and situational, and these factors interact with each other. According to a contrary view of decision making that is widely held in some areas of business research, individuals’ decisions about ethical issues (and subsequent actions) are purely a function of their self-interest.

The laboratory experiment reported in this paper provides a test of the person-situation interactionist model, using the general theoretical and experimental framework used in the experimental economics literature. One individual and two situational factors relating to moral intensity were examined which may influence decisions to misrepresent information in the course of business activities.

The individual and one situational variable were significantly related to participants’ actions. The interactions among individual and situation variables were not individually significant, although the model including interactions had a much higher level of statistical significance. Gender was significant, both directly and in interaction with moral development, suggesting that it may be worthy of further examination.

Copyright © Society for Business Ethics 2005

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ambrose, M. L., and Schminke, M.. 1999. “Sex Differences in Business Ethics: The Importance of Perceptions.” Journal of Managerial Issues 11: 45474.Google Scholar
Baier, K. 1965. The Moral Point of View: A Rational Basis of Ethics. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Blasi, A. 1980. “Bridging Moral Cognition and Moral Action: A Critical Review of the Literature.” Psychological Bulletin 88: 145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bonetti, S. 1998. “Experimental Economics and Deception.” Journal of Economic Psychology 19: 37795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brown-Kruse, J., and Hummels, D.. 1993. “Gender Effects in Laboratory Public Goods Contribution: Do Individuals Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 22: 25567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Butterfield, K. D., Treviño, L. K., and Weaver, G. R.. 2000. “Moral Awareness in Business Organizations: Influences of Issue-Related and Social Context Factors.” Human Relations 53: 9811018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Camerer, C. 1997. “Progress in Behavioral Game Theory.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 11: 16788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Camerer, C., and Thaler, R. H.. 1995. “Ultimatums, Dictators, and Manners.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 9: 20919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carpendale, J., and Krebs, D. L.. 1995. “Variations in Moral Judgment as a Function of Type of Dilemma and Moral Choice.” Journal of Personality 63: 289313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carr, A. 1968. “Is Business Bluffing Ethical?” Harvard Business Review 46 (January/February): 14349.Google Scholar
Carson, T. L. 2001. “Deception and Withholding Information in Sales.” Business Ethics Quarterly 11: 275306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davis, D. D., and Holt, C. A.. 1993. Experimental Economics. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Dawes, R. M., and Thaler, R. H.. 1988. “Anomalies: Cooperation.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 2: 18797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dees, G. J., and Crampton, P. C.. 1991: “Shrewd Bargaining on the Moral Frontier: Toward a Theory of Morality in Practice.” Business Ethics Quarterly 1: 13567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dees, G. J., and Crampton, P. C.. 1995. “Deception and Mutual Trust.” Business Ethics Quarterly 5: 82332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Downs, A. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
Fehr, E., and Schmidt, K. M.. 1999. “A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 114: 81768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ferraro, P. J., Rondeau, D., and Poe, G. L.. 2003. “Detecting Other-Regarding Behavior with Virtual Players.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 51: 99109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ferrell, O. C., and Gresham, L. G.. 1985. “A Synthesis of Ethical Decision Models for Marketing.” Journal of Marketing 49: 8796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Forsythe, R. L., Horowitz, J. L., Savin, N. E., and Sefton, M.. 1994. “Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments.” Games and Economic Behavior 6: 34769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greenberg, J. 2002. “Who Stole the Money? Individual and Situational Determinants of Employee Theft.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 89 (Spring): 9851003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grossman, P., and Eckel, C.. 1996. “Altruism in Anonymous Dictator Games.” Games and Economic Behavior 16: 18191.Google Scholar
Gruder, C. L., Stumpfhauser, A., and Wyer, R. S.. 1977. “Improvement in Experimental Performance as a Result of Debriefing about Deception.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 3: 43437.Google Scholar
Gunzberger, D., Wegner, D., and Anooshian, L.. 1977. “Moral Judgment and Distributive Justice.” Human Development 20: 16070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Güth, W., and Tietz, R.. 1990. “Ultimate Bargaining Behavior: A Survey and Comparison of Experimental Results.” Journal of Economic Psychology 11: 41749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herrara, C. D. 2001. “Ethics, Deception, and ‘Those Milgram Experiments.’” Journal of Applied Philosophy 18: 24556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hoffman, E., McCabe, K., Shachat, K., and Smith, V.. 1994. “Preferences, Property Rights and Anonymity in Bargaining Games.” Games and Economic Behavior 7: 34680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hoffman, E., McCabe, K., and Smith, V.. 1996. “Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games.” American Economic Review 86: 65360.Google Scholar
Hunt, S., and Vitell, S. J.. 1986. “A General Theory of Marketing Ethics.” Journal of Macromarketing 6 (Spring): 516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, T. M. 1991. “Ethical Decision Making by Individuals in Organizations: An Issue-Contingent Model.” Academy of Management Review 16: 36695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., and Thaler, R. H.. 1986a. “Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics.” Journal of Business 59: 285300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., and Thaler, R. H.. 1986b. “Fairness as a Constraint on Profit-Seeking: Entitlements in the Market.” American Economic Review 76: 72841.Google Scholar
Loewenstein, G. 1996. “Behavioral Decision Theory and Business Ethics: Skewed Trade-Offs between Self and Other,” in Codes of Conduct: Behavioral Research into Business Ethics, ed. Messick, D. M. and Tenbrunsel, A. E.. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Maddala, G. S. 1988. Introduction to Econometrics. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.Google Scholar
Malinowski, C. I., and Smith, C. P.. 1985. “Moral Reasoning and Moral Conduct: An Investigation Prompted by Kohlberg’s Theory.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 49: 101627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
May, D. R., and Pauli, K. P.. 2002. “The Role of Moral Intensity in Ethical Decision Making.” Business & Society 41: 84117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mueller, D. 1979. Public Choice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Ponemon, L. 1993. “Can Ethics Be Taught in Accounting?” Journal of Accounting Education 11: 129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rabin, M. 1993. “Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics.” American Economic Review 83: 12811302.Google Scholar
Rabin, M. 1998. “Psychology and Economics.” Journal of Economic Literature 36: 1146.Google Scholar
Rest, J. 1979. Development in Judging Moral Issues. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
Rest, J. 1986. Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
Rest, J., Narvaez, D., Bebeau, M. J., and Thoma, S. J.. 1999. Post-Conventional Moral Thinking: A Neo-Kohlbergian Approach. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Riker, W., and Ordeshook, P.. 1968. “A Theory of the Calculus of Voting.” American Political Science Review 62: 2542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, W. T. Jr., and Robertson, D. C.. 2000. “Lying: The Impact of Decision Context.” Business Ethics Quarterly 10: 40940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ruffle, B. J. 1998. “More is Better, but Fair is Fair: Tipping in Dictator and Ultimatum Games.” Games and Economic Behavior 23: 24765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stricker, L. J., Messick, S., and Jackson, D. N.. 1969. “Evaluating Deception in Psychological Research.” Psychological Bulletin 71: 34351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strudler, A. 1995. “On the Ethics of Deception in Negotiation.” Business Ethics Quarterly 5: 80522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thaler, R. H. 1987. “The Psychology of Choice and the Assumptions of Economics,” in Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: Six Points of View, ed. Roth, A. E.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 99130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thoma, S. J. 1994. “Moral Judgment and Moral Action,” in Moral Development in the Professions: Psychology and Applied Ethics, ed. Rest, J. R. and Narvaez, D.. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 199211.Google Scholar
Treviño, L. K. 1986. “Ethical Decision Making in Organizations: A Person-Situation Interactionist Model.” Academy of Management Review 11: 60117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Treviño, L. K., and Youngblood, S. A.. 1990. “Bad Apples in Bad Barrels: A Causal Analysis of Ethical Decision-Making Behavior.” Journal of Applied Psychology 75: 37885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Experimental Evidence Relating to the Person-Situation Interactionist Model of Ethical Decision Making
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Experimental Evidence Relating to the Person-Situation Interactionist Model of Ethical Decision Making
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Experimental Evidence Relating to the Person-Situation Interactionist Model of Ethical Decision Making
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *