Accountants' value preferences and moral reasoning

Journal of Business Ethics 69 (1):11 - 25 (2006)
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This paper examines relationships between accountants’ personal values and their moral reasoning. In particular, we hypothesize that there is an inverse relationship between accountants’ “Conformity” values and principled moral reasoning. This investigation is important because the literature suggests that conformity with rule-based standards may be one reason for professional accountants’ relatively lower scores on measures of moral reasoning (Abdolmohammadi et al. J Bus Ethics 16 (1997) 1717). We administered the Rokeach Values Survey (RVS) (Rokeach: 1973, The Nature of Human Values (The Free Press, New York)) and the Defining Issues Test (DIT) (Rest: 1979, Development in Judgment Moral Issues (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN)) to164 graduating accounting students enrolled in capstone courses at two universities in the Northeastern United States. As potential entrants into the accounting profession, these subjects bring their values and moral reasoning to bear on attitudes and behaviors in the workplace. We find a highly significant inverse relationship between “Conformity” values and principled moral reasoning (i.e., those who prefer Conformity values have lower levels of moral reasoning). However, we also find that accounting students as a group do not prefer Conformity values above other values such as Self-actualization and Idealism, and we find positive relationships between Self-actualization and Idealism values and moral reasoning. Implications for values and ethics research are discussed



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