Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 72, Issue 4, pp 335–357 | Cite as

The Effect of Moral Intensity on Ethical Judgment

  • Joan Marie McMahon
  • Robert J. Harvey


Following an extensive review of the moral intensity literature, this article reports the findings of two studies (one between-subjects, the other within-subject) that examined the effect of manipulated and perceived moral intensity on ethical judgment. In the between-subjects study participants judged actions taken in manipulated high moral intensity scenarios to be more unethical than the same actions taken in manipulated low moral intensity scenarios. Findings were mixed for the effect of perceived moral intensity. Both probable magnitude of consequences (a factor consisting of magnitude of consequences, probability of effect, and temporal immediacy) and social consensus had a significant effect; proximity did not. In the within-subject study manipulated moral intensity had a significant effect on ethical judgment, but perceived moral intensity did not. Regression of ethical judgment on age, gender, major, and the three perceived moral intensity factors was significant between-subjects, but not within-subject. Ethical judgment was found to be a more robust predictor of intention than perceived moral intensity using a within-subject design.


ethical decision making ethical judgment moral intensity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Management and MarketingChristopher Newport UniversityNewport NewsU.S.A.

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