An Examination of Cultural Differences in Ethical Decision Making Using the Multidimensional Ethics Scale
Lin, Chieh-Yu, Ho, Yi-Hui, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal
The Multidimensional Ethics Scale (MES) originally developed by Reidenbach and Robin (1988, 1990) is one of the most commonly used measures in business ethics research (McMahon & Harvey, 2007). Since its initial development, the MES has been widely used in the area of business ethics research. While the MES is a useful instrument in business ethics research, it has been applied to accounting ethical issues in only a limited number of studies. Scant attention has been paid to applying the MES to examine accounting students' ethical decision making and there is no research comparing accounting students' ethical decision making cross-culturally using the MES.
Because of the current trend toward globalization of the business environment, there are an increasing number of occasions for accounting professionals to offer financial information to their stakeholders around the world and facilitate the development of international businesses. Accounting ethical issues can no longer be considered as a problem only within a single business or nation. As accounting professionals have increasing chances to interact with other people with diverse cultural and historical experiences in the global economy, it is a challenge for them to understand the differences in ethical decision making cross-culturally. While most accounting students will be future accounting professionals, the cultural influences upon accounting students' ethical decision making should be an important topic in accounting ethics education. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the cultural differences in ethical decision making by using the MES to conduct a cross-cultural comparative analysis of undergraduate accounting students' ethical decision making in the United States and Taiwan.
ETHICAL DECISION MAKING
Ethical decision making is a way of resolving conflicts where ethical dilemmas are present. Rest's (1986) four-component model of ethical action that describes the process of ethical decision making is perhaps the most widely accepted model of ethical action in psychology (Jones, Massey, & Thorne, 2002). This model indicates that an ethical action is composed of ethical awareness, ethical judgment, ethical intention, and ethical behavior. Ethical awareness includes interpreting the situation, role taking about how various actions might affect the parties concerned, imagining the cause-effect chain of events, and being aware that there is a moral problem when one exists. Ethical judgment includes judging which action would be most justifiable in a moral sense. Ethical intention includes the degree of commitment to taking the moral course of action, valuing moral values over other values, and taking personal responsibility for moral outcomes. Ethical behavior includes persisting in a moral task, having courage, overcoming fatigue and temptation, and implementing subroutines that serve a moral goal (Rest, 1986).
Ethical awareness and judgment are two necessary components of ethical decision making because many difficult dilemmas are ethically ambiguous, meaning that they can be viewed from a strategic perspective, an ethical perspective, or a perspective that involves a combination of both (Butterfield, Trevino, & Weaver, 2000). Koehn (2000) maintains that accounting professionals have to judge each ethical situation as well as judge what objectivity, integrity, and other ethical issues mean in the given situation, and then act according to their judgments. Several researchers also suggest that developing students' awareness and judgment in ethical issues and problems is a main goal of accounting ethics education (Loeb, 1988; McPhail, 2001).
There are a number of factors influencing the ethical decision making of students, including cultural background, gender, prior ethical education, religiosity, and the type of ethical dilemma (Hudson …
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Publication information: Article title: An Examination of Cultural Differences in Ethical Decision Making Using the Multidimensional Ethics Scale. Contributors: Lin, Chieh-Yu - Author, Ho, Yi-Hui - Author. Journal title: Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal. Volume: 36. Issue: 9 Publication date: October 2008. Page number: 1213+. © 2009 Scientific Journal Publishers, Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.