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The Relationship between Political Attitudes and Moral Judgment: Examining the Validity of the Defining Issues Test

Dann G. Fisher and John T. Sweeney
Journal of Business Ethics
Vol. 17, No. 8 (Jun., 1998), pp. 905-916
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25073135
Page Count: 12
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The Relationship between Political Attitudes and Moral Judgment: Examining the Validity of the Defining Issues Test
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Abstract

Most ethics studies employing accounting subjects have utilized the Defining Issues Test (DIT), generally finding the moral judgment abilities of accounting students and accountants to be less advanced than those of the general population (Ponemon and Gabhart, 1994). This study assesses the validity of the DIT by examining whether an individual can achieve a higher moral judgment score on the DIT by responding from the role of a political liberal. Accounting undergraduates, defining themselves as liberal, moderate or conservative, completed the DIT once from their own perspective and once from either an "extremely conservative" or "extremely liberal" perspective. The results indicate that DIT scores can be influenced by an aspect of political ideology not reflecting maturation in moral judgment. Subjects decreased their moral judgment scores when responding to the DIT dilemmas from a conservative perspective. Contrary to moral development theory, subjects were able to increase their moral judgment scores when responding from the perspective of a political liberal. These results imply that, given the generally conservative political orientation of the profession, the DIT may systematically understate the moral judgment abilities of accounting students and accountants.

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