Keith Leavitt, Lei Zhu, Karl Aquino
Journal of Business Ethics
July 2015 Date: 30 Jul 2015
The role of moral intuition (i.e., a set of implicit processes which occur automatically and at the fringe of conscious awareness) has been increasingly implicated in business decisions and (un)ethical business behavior. But troublingly, because implicit processes often operate outside of conscious awareness, decision makers are generally unaware of their influence. We tested whether subtle contextual cues for identity can alter implicit beliefs. In two studies, we found that contextual cues which nonconsciously prime moral identity weaken the implicit association between the categories of “business” and “ethical,” an implicit association which has previously been linked to unethical decision making. Further, changes in this implicit association mediated the relationship between contextually primed moral identity and concern for external stakeholder groups, regardless of self-reported moral identity. Thus, our results show that subtle contextual cues can lead individuals to render more ethical judgments, by automatically restructuring moral intuition below the level of consciousness.
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