Cognition, consciousness and business ethics - the role of implicit social cognition in moral management behaviour

Research output: Contributions to collected editions/worksChapterpeer-review


The present paper deals with implicit social cognitions and decisions in the realm of business ethics. Based on the dual-process view in social cognition research, it is argued, that social cognition as e.g. moral judgments, can rely on two different modes of information processing. On the one hand, moral judgments reflect a conscious, controlled and extensive cognitive process which is attributed to an explicit attitude. On the other hand, moral judgments may also be based on a more intuitive, automatic and effortless process referring to an implicit attitude. It is argued that implicit social cognitions such as implicit attitudes may have a stronger impact on an ethical decision-making process in business than explicit attitudes. To test this thesis a study involving 88 managers was conducted. The participants were asked to work on a business-related ethical decision-making task. The task involved making choices between two possible options. Implicit attitude towards the two options were measured by the Implicit Association Test (IAT, Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwarz, 1998). A semantic differential scale was used to diagnose the explicit attitude towards the two options. The individual steps of a business ethical decision-making process were assessed with various self-report measures such as behavioural scales and questionnaires. Although an ethical decision-making process includes complex and reflective steps, the results of this study support the thesis. The possible conclusion is that even complex decision-making processes in the context of business ethics can be more affected by implicit social cognition rather than it’s conscious counterpart.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerspectives on Ethics
EditorsJeremy S. Duncan
Number of pages24
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Publication date01.01.2011
ISBN (Print)9781617616778
ISBN (Electronic)9781536117073
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2011