Business education: Does a focus on prosocial values increase students’ pro-social behavior?

Mind and Society 18 (2):181-190 (2019)
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Abstract

Prior research has shown a pronounced self-orientation in students of business and economics. This article examines if self-orientation can be alleviated by a focus on prosocial values in business education. In a cross-sectional design, we test the prosocial behavior and values of bachelor students at the beginning and the end of a traditional 3-year business administration program. We compare their behavior with the behavior of two different groups: students from an ethically-oriented international management school and students from a social work program of equal length. The results showed that students of business administration show less prosocial behavior in a dictator game than students in the other two groups. This difference is larger between final-year students than between first-year students. According to the results of the Schwartz Value Survey, the Inglehart Index, and a scale for preferences for distributive justice, students in the three disciplines differ substantially in prosocial values, but there is no significant difference between first and last semester students of the same discipline. We conclude that there is no transmission of self-oriented behavior through self-oriented values emended in traditional business education curricula. Instead, students seem to select academic programs according to their personal and preexisting social orientations.

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