Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 501–512 | Cite as

Let the Story Go: The Role of Emotion in the Decision-Making Process of the Reluctant, Vulnerable Witness or Whistle-Blower

  • James Hollings


This paper draws on cognitive psychological theory to explain the role of emotion in the decision-making process of four reluctant, vulnerable witnesses to wrongdoing, who were persuaded to blow the whistle on matters of substantial public interest. It proposes a theoretical explanation for the role of emotion on whistle-blower or witness decision-making, based on the Iterative Reprocessing Model and drawing on appraisal-based theories of cognitive psychology. It concludes that the decision to speak is preceded by an intense emotional episode, probably due to changes in the witnesses’ coping and legitimacy appraisal structures. These changes are most likely a result of interaction with journalists and others during the decision-making process.


Appraisals Cognitive Emotion Journalists Source Whistle-blower Witness 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Communication, Journalism and MarketingMassey UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand

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