The Usefulness of Social Norm Theory in Empirical Business Ethics Research: A Review and Suggestions for Future Research

40 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2016

See all articles by Allen D. Blay

Allen D. Blay

Florida State University

Eric Gooden

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)

Mark J. Mellon

Northern Illinois University - Department of Accountancy

Douglas E. Stevens

Georgia State University - Robinson College of Business

Date Written: February 26, 2016

Abstract

In response to recent calls to extend the underlying theories used in the empirical ethical decision-making literature (O’Fallon and Butterfield 2005; Craft 2013), we review the usefulness of social norm theory in empirical business ethics research. We begin by identifying the seeds of social norm theory in Adam Smith’s (1759/1790) seminal work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Next, we review recent theory in social norm activation by Bicchieri (2006) and compare the new theory to two theoretical frameworks found in the empirical business ethics literature: Kohlberg’s (1969, 1976) theory of moral development and Cialdini and Trost’s (1998) taxonomy of social norms. We argue that the new theory is capable of providing useful insights by emphasizing the ability of contextual cues to alter behavior by forming common expectations for social norm behavior. To demonstrate this usefulness, we present examples where the theory has been effectively applied in experimental accounting research. Finally, we provide specific examples where the theory may prove useful in empirical business ethics research.

Keywords: Empirical business ethics research, Social norm theory, Adam Smith’s moral theory, Bicchieri’s model

Suggested Citation

Blay, Allen Dennis and Gooden, Eric and Mellon, Mark J. and Stevens, Douglas E., The Usefulness of Social Norm Theory in Empirical Business Ethics Research: A Review and Suggestions for Future Research (February 26, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2738724 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2738724

Allen Dennis Blay (Contact Author)

Florida State University ( email )

Rovetta Business Bldg. (RBA)
College of Business
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1110
United States
850-727-0953 (Phone)

Eric Gooden

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) ( email )

1015 Floyd Avenue
Richmond, VA 23284
United States

Mark J. Mellon

Northern Illinois University - Department of Accountancy ( email )

College of Business
DeKalb, IL 60115
United States

Douglas E. Stevens

Georgia State University - Robinson College of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 4050
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States
404-413-7212 (Phone)
404-413-7203 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://robinson.gsu.edu/profile/douglas-e-stevens/

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