The effects of accounting students` ethical reasoning and personal factors on their ethical sensitivity

Chan, Samuel and Leung, Philomena 2006, The effects of accounting students` ethical reasoning and personal factors on their ethical sensitivity, Managerial auditing journal, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 436-457, doi: 10.1108/02686900610661432.

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Title The effects of accounting students` ethical reasoning and personal factors on their ethical sensitivity
Author(s) Chan, Samuel
Leung, Philomena
Journal name Managerial auditing journal
Volume number 21
Issue number 4
Start page 436
End page 457
Publisher Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Place of publication Bingley, England
Publication date 2006
ISSN 0268-6902
Keyword(s) ethics
Summary Purpose – Rest posited that to behave morally, an individual must have performed at least four basic psychological processes: moral sensitivity; moral judgment; moral motivation; and moral character. Though much ethics research in accounting has been focused on component two, ethical judgment, less research has been undertaken on the other three components. The purpose of this study is to focus on component one, ethical sensitivity, of Rest's four-component model.
Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 156 accounting undergraduates was employed to investigate the ethical sensitivity of accounting students and the effects of their ethical reasoning and personal factors on their ethical sensitivity.
Findings – Results of this study show that accounting students vary in their ability to detect the presence of ethical issues in a professional scenario. There is no significant relationship between accounting students' ethical sensitivity and their ethical reasoning (P-score). Accounting students characterized as “internals” are more likely to show an ability to recognize ethical issues than those characterized as “externals.” The results also indicate that an accounting ethics intervention may have positive effect on accounting students' ethical sensitivity development. Hence, an individual who possesses the ability to determine what is ethically right or wrong (high ethical reasoning) may fail to behave ethically due to a deficiency in identifying ethical issues (low ethical sensitivity) in a situation.
Originality/value – Whilst much research has concentrated on ethical reasoning and ethics education to enhance the ethical conduct of accountants, it is important that the profession and researchers also direct their attention and efforts to cultivating the ethical sensitivity of accountants. The findings of this study provide additional evidence to support Rest's theory of a more comprehensive cognitive model of ethical decision-making and suggest a more balanced research effort in evaluating the ethical development of individuals.
Language eng
DOI 10.1108/02686900610661432
Field of Research 220107 Professional Ethics (incl police and research ethics)
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Business and Law
School of Accounting, Economics and Finance
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