Violence, Aggression, and Ethics: The Link between Exposure to Human Violence and Unethical Behavior

26 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2015

See all articles by Joshua R. Gubler

Joshua R. Gubler

Brigham Young University - Department of Political Science

Skye Herrick

Google Inc.

Richard A. Price

University of Oklahoma

David A. Wood

Brigham Young University - School of Accountancy

Date Written: October 20, 2015

Abstract

Can exposure to media portrayals of human violence impact an individual’s ethical decision making at work? Ethical business failures can result in enormous financial losses to individuals, businesses, and society. We study how exposure to human violence — especially through media — can cause individuals to make less ethical decisions. We present three experiments, each showing a causal link between exposure to human violence and unethical business behavior, and show this relationship is mediated by an increase in individual hostility levels as a result of exposure to violence. Using observational data, we then provide evidence suggesting that this relationship extends beyond the context of our experiments, showing that companies headquartered in locations marked by greater human violence are more likely to fraudulently misstate their financial statements and exhibit more aggressive financial reporting. Combined, our results suggest that exposure to human violence has significant and real effects on an individual’s ethical decision making.

Keywords: Violence, Aggression, Ethics, Hostility, Dehumanization

JEL Classification: M00, M1, M4, M41, J1

Suggested Citation

Gubler, Joshua R. and Herrick, Skye and Price, Richard A. and Wood, David A., Violence, Aggression, and Ethics: The Link between Exposure to Human Violence and Unethical Behavior (October 20, 2015). Journal of Business Ethics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2676813

Joshua R. Gubler

Brigham Young University - Department of Political Science ( email )

764 Kimball Tower
Provo, UT 84602
United States
801-422-2829 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.byu.edu/jgubler

Skye Herrick

Google Inc. ( email )

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Second Floor
Mountain View, CA 94043
United States

Richard A. Price

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States
405-325-5759 (Phone)

David A. Wood (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - School of Accountancy ( email )

518 TNRB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States
801-422-8642 (Phone)
801-422-0621 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://marriottschool.byu.edu/employee/employee.cfm?emp=daw44

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