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《Journal of Psychological Science》 2015-04
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Temporal Distance Enhances Ethical Judgment

Yan Jin;Lou Chunhua;Alexander Unger;School of management, Zhejiang University;Postal Savings Bank of China,Zhejiang Branch;Institute of International Management Studies, University of Applied Science Ludwigshafen;  
Business ethics has given rise to much public attention in recent years. Previous research on behavioral ethics has demonstrated that individuals' ethical decisions are a combined result of dispositional factors, social infl uences and situational interactions. From the perspective of social cognition, the construal level theory claims that people are likely to make different behavioral choices if they represent the ethical scenarios at different construal levels. Specifi cally, when people represent the scenarios at a high construal level, they would probably take the primary, global and superordinate features into consideration. In contrast, when they represent the scenarios at a low construal level, they are more likely to consider the secondary, local and subordinate features. A far temporal distance of scenarios is connected to high construal levels. Ethical judgment, which is defi ned as an awareness of vice and virtue in a scenario, is linked to a representation of a high construal level. Given the theoretical logic above, we hypothesized that a far temporal distance of a moral complex will enhance the ethical judgment of a decision-maker.In the current work, two experiments were conducted to test our hypothesis. In Study 1, we embedded the temporal distance in three ethical judgment scenarios by the temporal conditions of "two days ago" versus "two years ago" with 139 college students involved in the experiment. The results of repeated-measure ANOVA showed that the effects of temporal distance were signifi cant; F(1, 127)=5.69, p =.02, η2=.04. The subjects perceived the unethical behaviors at a far temporal distance as more unacceptable. In Study 2, apart from the manipulation of temporal distance, we introduced the dispositional variable, namely, the consideration of future consequences. 92 MBA students participated in the experiment, fi lling in the CFC scale before the judgments of four ethical scenarios were made. The repeated measure ANOVA results showed that the effect of the temporal distance was signifi cant, F(1, 88)= 8.65, p =.00, η2=.09; the effect of the CFC feature was also signifi cant, F(1, 88)=7.33, p =.01, η2=.08; and further the interaction term showed a signifi cant infl uence, F(1, 88)=4.44, p =.04, η2=.05. Our hypothesis was confirmed by the results of these two experiments. Our empirical evidence showed that temporal distance exerts an infl uence on the decision-makers by increasing their moral awareness. A far temporal distance helps individuals to represent an ethical complexity at a high construal level and make more rigorous decisions. The dispositional feature of far-sight also serves as a moderator related to the prediction. Our research contributed to ethical decision-making literature from the perspective of the construal level theory. We fi rstly introduced dispositional variables besides social cognitive factors in moral decision representations, which suggested that dispositional differences serve as another factor influencing ethical complex cognition. We also offer suggestions that other dimensions of psychological distance may serve as preconditions of construal levels, a topic which could be further explored in future research.
【Fund】: 国家自然科学基金(71072114、71232012)的资助
【CateGory Index】: B84-05
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