Bad Apples in Bad Barrels: A Causal Analysis of Ethical Decision-Making Behavior

Linda Klebe Trevino, Stuart A. Youngblood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

701 Scopus citations


This study proposed and tested a multiple-influences causal model of ethical decision-making behavior. Social learning, stage of cognitive moral development (CMD), and locus of control (LC) were hypothesized to influence ethical decision making. The mediating influence of outcome expectancies was also hypothesized. Social learning conditions (vicarious reward, vicarious punishment, and control) were manipulated with an in-basket exercise. Path analysis revealed that ethical decision making was influenced directly by CMD. LC influenced ethical decision making directly and indirectly through outcome expectancies. Vicarious reward influenced ethical decision making indirectly through outcome expectancies. No support was found for the direct effects of vicarious reward or punishment. Future research directions and theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-385
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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