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An individual’s ethical and economic values impact his decision processes when faced with resolving certain dilemmas. The primary issue of this research is to examine the relationship between accounting students’ ethical and economic values and their responses to business dilemmas. Additionally, this study attempted to see if senior accounting students responded with more ethical responses to the dilemmas than did lower-division accounting students.

A measure of ethicality proposed by McCarthy (1997) was compared with subjects’ ethical responses to the business dilemmas. No correlation between the students’ measure of ethicality and the number of ethical responses to business dilemmas was found. Results did indicate that senior students exhibited a greater ethicality measure than lower-division accounting students. Additionally, senior-accounting students respond with marginally more ethical responses than lower-division accounting students.

These findings indicate that, analogously to cognitive moral development, ethical value development arguably is occurring in accounting students. A contribution of this study is the use of the Rokeach value survey and eight business dilemmas to assess accounting student’s ethical value development. The Rokeach measures the student’s relative ranking of eighteen different values, including ethical and economic values. The business dilemmas measure the students’ ethical and economic responses to situations they could face in their lives. These instruments could shed additional light on accounting students’ ethical development.


This article was published by The Clute Institute and is available at:

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