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Empirical Evidence of Group Impact in the Context of Ethical Decision Making

By Conor O'Leary


Recent accounting scandals involving the collapse of large corporate firms have brought into question the adequacy of ethics education within accounting programs. This paper investigates the ethical decisions of accountancy students and in particular analyses the effect of group (as opposed to individual) decision-making on ethical decisions. Two classes of final year accountancy students were presented with five (5) ethical vignettes which they completed as individuals. The two classes were subsequently divided into groups of 3 participants and each group completed the same survey instrument. Group responses yielded a significantly more ethical attitude in three of the five scenarios, the other two displaying no significant difference. Evidence also exists however of groups restraining potential whistleblowing, suggesting group work can have both a positive and negative effect.\ud \ud The critical implication of this finding is in relation to how accounting educators attempt to convey the ethical message. Many accounting programs place emphasis on group work. Group work may enhance students’ abilities to work as a team and may be an effective means of producing the optimal decision in complex areas such as ethical decision-making but may on occasion retard highly ethical individual

Publisher: School of Accounting and Corporate Governance, University of Tasmania
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:12295

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