The construct of cognitive moral development seemingly has powerful practical relevance in many areas of life. Nonetheless, moral reasoning seems of marginal relevance at best in the context of business ethics. Simply put, moral reasoning measurement indices are often only weakly related to many other apparently pertinent variables, and such findings cast doubt upon the construct validity of cognitive moral development. Many such unexpectedly weak relationships, however, may stem from two largely unrecognized methodological artifacts. The first artifact is an almost total reliance on the P index of the Defining Issues Test (DIT) designed to assess moral development even when this index may be inappropriate in a particular context. A second artifact that seems particularly salient in the context of attitudes toward authority involves a not always appropriate reliance on samples that include respondents whose moral reasoning is uncoupled from their action choices. These artifacts may restrict the amount of variance explained in observed relationships, and thus constrain the potential for moral reasoning to understand and explain behavior and attitudes relevant in the context of business ethics. Researchers are urged to use DIT D scores (in addition to P scores) in specific situations, and to examine relationships among high DIT U scorers whose moral reasoning is tightly coupled with their action choices. The application of these guidelines may have profound implications for advancing our fundamental understanding of moral reasoning, and of increasing its relevance to business ethics.
Journal of Business Ethics – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 17, 2004
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