Professional ethical sensitivity: The case of marketing researchers



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


Empirical research in marketing ethics has focused primarily on two facets of ethical decision making: ethical judgments and unethical behavior. This study examines a key input to ethical decision making, ethical sensitivity, the ability to recognize decision making situations that have ethical content. A decision making situation has ethical content when one or more alternative courses of action (including "no action") would violate a formal or informal moral code.

This study develops and tests a measure of professional ethical sensitivity for marketing researchers. Professional ethical sensitivity is hypothesized to be a positive function of organizational socialization, professional socialization, organizational rank, two dimensions of empathy (perspective taking and emotional contagion), Machiavellianism, education and formal training in ethics.

Significant positive relationships with ethical sensitivity were found for organizational and professional socialization and emotional contagion. Surprisingly, significant negative relationships with ethical sensitivity were found for perspective taking and formal training in ethics. A possible explanation for these unexpected results is offered.



Business ethics, Marketing -- Decision making -- Moral and ethical