Do Business Students Have an Ethical Blind Spot?

Lowhorn, G. L., Bostwick, E. D., & Smith, L. D. (2013). Do Business Students Have an Ethical Blind Spot? Journal of Business Ethics Education. Vol. 10. 2013. 83-102.

Posted: 12 May 2014

See all articles by Greg L. Lowhorn

Greg L. Lowhorn

Pensacola Christian College

Eric Bostwick

University of West Florida; AICPA; AAA (TLC, FARS)

Lonnie Smith

Pensacola Christian College

Date Written: November 14, 2013

Abstract

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.

Keywords: ethical cognition, cognitive disconnect, blind spot, decision making, ethics education

JEL Classification: D63, Z10, A10

Suggested Citation

Lowhorn, Greg L. and Bostwick, Eric and Smith, Lonnie, Do Business Students Have an Ethical Blind Spot? (November 14, 2013). Lowhorn, G. L., Bostwick, E. D., & Smith, L. D. (2013). Do Business Students Have an Ethical Blind Spot? Journal of Business Ethics Education. Vol. 10. 2013. 83-102., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2435698

Greg L. Lowhorn (Contact Author)

Pensacola Christian College ( email )

250 Brent Ln
Pensacola, FL 32503
United States

Eric Bostwick

University of West Florida ( email )

11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514-5750
United States

AICPA ( email )

1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036-8775
United States

AAA (TLC, FARS) ( email )

5717 Bessie Drive
Sarasota, FL 34233-2399
United States

Lonnie Smith

Pensacola Christian College ( email )

250 Brent Ln
Pensacola, FL 32503
United States

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