Cultural Differences in Ethical Decision-Making Using Multidimensional Essay

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Cultural Differences in Ethical Decision-Making Using Multidimensional Ethics Scale

The objective of this study is to examine cultural differences in ethical decision-making using the multidimensional ethics scale. The Multidimensional Ethics Scale (MES) was developed originally by Reidenbach and Robin (1988, 1990) and is one of the most often used measures in business ethics research. (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) The MES is an instrument found to be useful in business ethics research as well as accounting ethical issues in a few studies. Due to the trending toward globalization of the business environment there are reported to be "an increasing number of occasions for accounting professionals to offer financial information to their stakeholders around the world and facilitate the development of international businesses. Accounting ethical issues can no longer be considered as a problem within a single business or nation." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213)

Multidimensional Ethics Scale Model

This model indicates that an ethical action is composed of "ethical awareness, ethical judgment, ethical intention, and ethical behavior." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Ethical awareness is inclusive of interpretation of the situation, role-taking about how various actions might affect the parties concerned, imaging the cause-effect chain of events, and being aware that there is a moral problem when one exists." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Ethical judgment includes judging which action would be most justifiable in a moral sense." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Ethical intention includes "the degree of commitment to taking the moral course of action, valuing moral values over other values, and taking personal responsibility for moral outcomes." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Ethical behavior includes "persisting in a moral task, having courage, overcoming fatigue and temptation, and implementing subroutines that serve a moral goal." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1214)

II. Critical Components of Decision-Making

Two critical components of ethical decision-making are those of: (1) awareness; and (2) judgment and this are stated to be since "many difficult dilemmas are ethically ambiguous, meaning that they can be viewed from a strategic perspective, an ethical perspective, or a perspective that involves a combination of both." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1214) It is reported to be held in the work of Koehn (2000) that "accounting professionals have to judge each ethical situation as well as judge what objectivity, integrity, and other ethical issues mean in the given situation, and then act according to their judgments." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1214)

III. Defining Ethical Action

Ethical action is reported to be comprised by: (1) ethical awareness, (2) ethical judgment, (3) ethical intention, and (4) ethical behavior. (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1214) Ethical awareness is inclusive of interpreting the situation, role taking about how various actions might affect he parties concerned, imaging the cause-effect chain of events, and being aware that there is a moral problem when one exists." Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1214)

IV. Ethical Judgment

Ethical judgment is stated to be inclusive of "judging which action would be most justifiable in a moral sense." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1215) Ethical intention is stated to include the "degree of commitment to taking the moral course of action, valuing moral values over other values, and taking personal responsibility for moral outcomes." Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1215) Ethical behavior is stated to be inclusive of "persisting in moral tasks, having courage, overcoming fatigue and temptation, and implementing subroutines that serve a moral goal." Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1215) Because many dilemmas are stated to be of the nature that is "ethically ambiguous," ethical awareness and judgment are two critical components of ethical decision-making. (Lin and Ho, 2008, paraphrased)

V. Factors Influencing Ethical Decision-Making

There are various factors that influencing the ethical decision-making including the individuals' "cultural background, gender, prior ethical education, religiosity and the type of ethical dilemma." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) The primary purpose reported in the study of Lin and Ho was the comparison of the variations in ethical decision making for accounting students in terms of their cultural backgrounds. It is reported that since each culture "is a specific system of shared values, beliefs, and customs that an individual can use in relation to others and that can be transmitted from generation to generation through learning…" (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Individuals from various backgrounds are reported as being "exposed to different behaviors, including how each individual perceives ethical problems and engages in ethical decision-making." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) It has been demonstrated in various studies that culture "has a great influence on business behaviors including ethical decision making processes." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) National culture also serves to influence the perception of right and wrong and that which is acceptable and unacceptable as well as that which is ethical and unethical." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213)

VI. Five Ethical Philosophies in the Original MES Instrument

When the MES was first developed there were five ethical philosophies that were included in the MES instrument: (1) justice; (2) relativism; (3) egoism; (4) utilitarianism; and (5) deontology. (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Ethical decision-making is reported to be a method of finding resolution to conflicts that contain ethical dilemmas. Justice is reported to refer to "the idea of fairness to all." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Relativism is reported to be the "extent to which an action is considered acceptable in a culture. Actions taken for relativistic reasons are those where certain rules may not seem universal, that is, the professional-specific rules that may be acceptable in one culture may not be so in another." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213)

Egoism is stated to mean the extent "to which one chooses an action based on self-interest. Egoistic actions are presumed to be ethical if they promote an individual's long-term interests." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Utilitarianism is the "extent to which an action leads to the greatest good for the greatest number of people." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) Deontology is the "extent to which an action is consistent with an individual's duties or unwritten obligations." (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213) The focus of deontological actions are "the principles of right and wrong…" (Lin and Ho, 2008, p.1213)

VII. Information Ethics

Liu and Chen (2012) write in the work entitled 'Information Ethics: A Cross-Cultural Study of Ethical Decision-Making Between U.S. And Chinese Business Students" that today's society is one that is "an increasingly network-based society" and because of this "understanding the role of information ethics is particularly important in the research of business ethics." (p.51) The study reported by Liu and Chen (2012) is one that had the objective of exploring the cross-cultural differences that exist between U.S. And Chinese business students in terms of their "rationales for ethical decision-making with respect to common information-related ethical dilemmas." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.52) Information ethics is defined as "the ethical issues and dilemmas in the development and application of information. Given the prevalence of IT, information ethics is becoming an increasingly important area of concern in the contemporary network-based economy." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.52)

VIII. Culture as a Factor Influencing Ethics

Culture is reported to be defined "as the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one category of people from another." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p. 52) It is additionally reported that a large base of evidence exists supporting the idea that cultural differences "play a crucial role in business ethics." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.52) It is reported that information is a "young academic field" in China and there are only a very few studies that have taken a look at the cross-cultural differences that exist in information ethics.

Liu and Chen report that the work of Eining and Lee (1997) examined the impact of culture on information within the U.S. And three specific cultures in China, or those of Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Findings in the study shown "significant differences between these cultures in their acceptance of unethical behavior with regard to the issues of privacy, property and access, but similar ethical attitudes toward the accuracy issue." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.52)

IX. Gender Differences

Previous studies have examined gender as "a significant factor in the determination of ethical judgments and decisions and have found mixed results regarding the influence of gender." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.53) Earlier studies indicate that "females are more likely to make ethical judgments than males, yet others have not found gender differences in their ethical studies." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.53) Females are reported in the work of Dalton & Ortegren (2011) to be more ethical than males since females "have a higher social desirability response bias." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.53) Bernardi (2006) found in a previous cross-cultural study of social desirability bias that the respondents who were Chinese "had a larger social desirability bias than their U.S. counterparts." (Liu and Chen, 2012, p.53) Liu and Chen state of the Multidimensional Ethics Scale (MES) that the MES was designed specifically to measure the "multidimensional rationales that are used in the ethical-decision making of individuals." (p.53)…[continue]

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