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The Empirical Performance of Cognitive Moral Development in Predicting Behavioral Intent

  • Donald P. Robin, Gus Gordon, Charles Jordan and R. Eric Reidenbach

The substantial work on cognitive moral development (CMD) by Lawrence Kohlberg and James Rest popularized the use of this construct in the literature on business ethics. This construct has been prominently used in models attempting to explain ethical/unethical behavior in management, marketing, and accounting, even though Kohlberg did not intend for the construct to be used in that manner. As a predictor of behavior, CMD has been attacked on the theoretical level, and its empirical performance has been weak. This article uses another established construct, which seems to satisfy the central criticisms of CMD, as a means of testing those complaints. The comparative multidimensional ethics scale (MES) substantially outperforms CMD, operationalized using Rest's Defining Issues Test, in every test. These results seem to suggest that other options perform better than CMD when the purpose is to model ethical/unethical behavior or even ethical judgment.

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Business Ethics Quarterly
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