Decision Making

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Academy of Management Journal 2012, Vol. 55, No. 1, 13–33. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amj.2009.0873

CONTEMPLATION AND CONVERSATION: SUBTLE INFLUENCES ON MORAL DECISION MAKING
BRIAN C. GUNIA Johns Hopkins University LONG WANG City University of Hong Kong LI HUANG INSEAD JIUNWEN WANG J. KEITH MURNIGHAN Northwestern University
This research investigated the role of contemplation, conversation (conceptualized as social contemplation), and explanation in right-wrong decisions. Several theories suggest that contemplation or morally oriented conversation will promote ethical decisions and that immediate choice or self-interested conversation will not; other theories suggest that individuals’ explanations will reinforce their decisions. An experimental task tempting people to lie supported all of these predictions. In addition, truth tellers viewed the situation as morally oriented, and non–truth tellers viewed it as oriented around self-interest, both before and after their decisions. These findings provided the basis for a new process model of moral decision making.

Moral decisions abound in organizations: builders choose between durable and cheap materials; salespeople choose to reveal or conceal available discounts; and accountants decide when creative becomes deceptive. Recent scandals at Goldman Sachs, Satyam Computers, Siemens, and Societe Generale document the importance of moral decisions for managers, employees, customers, and shareholders (Ashforth, Gioia, Robinson, & Trevino, 2008)—and these are just a few of many corporate examples. The unfortunate frequency of unethical decision making in organizations around the world raises obvious questions about the basic, underlying causes of these decisions. Moral decisions, which Jones (1991) and Kidder (1996) have characterized as value-based, voli-

We were very fortunate that the Dispute Resolution Research Center in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University funded this research. We are



References: Allport, G. W. 1968. The historical background of modern social psychology. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology, vol. 1 (2nd ed.): 1– 80. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

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