Disgusted or Happy, It's Not so Bad: Emotional Mini-Max in Unethical Judgments

49 Pages Posted: 19 May 2014

See all articles by Karen Page Winterich

Karen Page Winterich

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration

Andrea Morales

Arizona State University (ASU)

Vikas Mittal

Rice University

Date Written: May 17, 2014

Abstract

Although prior work on ethical decision-making has examined the direct impact of magnitude of consequences as well as the direct impact of emotions on ethical judgments, the current research examines the interaction of these two constructs. Building on previous research finding disgust to have a varying impact on ethical judgments depending on the specific behavior being evaluated, we investigate how disgust, as well as happiness and sadness, moderate the effect of magnitude of consequences on an individual’s judgments of another person’s unethical behavior. Specifically, we propose and find that because disgust and happiness are both associated with more heuristic based processing, they both lead to a stronger reliance on the magnitude of consequences when forming ethical judgments. In contrast, because sad and neutral emotional states are associated with more systematic processing, they both result in a weaker reliance on the magnitude of consequences. As such, the effect of magnitude of consequences on judgments of unethical behaviors is stronger when individuals making the judgments are experiencing disgust or happiness versus sadness or a neutral state. This research shows that ethical judgment severity is contingent on individual-level factors, particularly the current emotional state being experienced by the individual, interacting with magnitude of consequences to impact the ethical decision-making process.

Keywords: ethical decision-making; judgments of unethical behavior; magnitude of consequences; emotion; affect

Suggested Citation

Winterich, Karen Page and Morales, Andrea and Mittal, Vikas, Disgusted or Happy, It's Not so Bad: Emotional Mini-Max in Unethical Judgments (May 17, 2014). Journal of Business Ethics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2438275

Karen Page Winterich (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration ( email )

University Park, PA 16802
United States

Andrea Morales

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Vikas Mittal

Rice University ( email )

6100 South Main Street
250 McNair
Houston, TX 77005-1892
United States

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