Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 109, Issue 2, pp 117–131 | Cite as

The Influence of Unethical Peer Behavior on Observers’ Unethical Behavior: A Social Cognitive Perspective

  • Michael J. O’Fallon
  • Kenneth D. Butterfield


The relationship between unethical peer behavior and observers’ unethical behavior traditionally has been examined from a social learning perspective. We employ two additional theoretical lenses, social identity theory and social comparison theory, each of which offers additional insight into this relationship. Data from 600 undergraduate business students in two universities provide support for all the three perspectives, suggesting that unethical behavior is influenced by social learning, social identity, and social comparison processes. Implications for managers and future research are discussed.


Ethical decision making Social learning theory Social identity theory Social comparison theory Peer influence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. O’Fallon
    • 1
  • Kenneth D. Butterfield
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation ManagementJames Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Management, Information Systems, and EntrepreneurshipWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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