The Impact of Ethics Education on Reporting Behavior

Journal of Business Ethics 86 (3):397-416 (2009)
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We examine the impact of an ethics education program on reporting behavior using two groups of students: fourth year Masters of Accounting students who just completed a newly instituted ethics education program, and fifth year students in the same program who did not receive the ethics program. In an experiment providing both the opportunity and motivation to misreport for more money, we design two social condition treatments – anonymity and public disclosure – to examine whether or to what extent ethical values are internalized by students. We find that when participants are anonymous, misreporting rates are nearly the same regardless of ethics program participation. However, when their reporting behavior is made public to the cohort, participants who completed the ethics program misreported at significantly lower rates than those who did not receive the ethics program. The results suggest that ethics education does not necessarily result in internalized ethical values, but it can impact ethical behavior.



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