The IRIOP Annual Review
Journal of Organizational Behavior, J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
Published online 20 February 2014 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/job.1919
The moral self: A review and integration of
the literature
PETER L. JENNINGS1*,†, MARIE S. MITCHELL2† AND SEAN T. HANNAH3
1
2
3
Summary
Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California, U.S.A.
Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, U.S.A.
School of Business, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.A.
The role of the self in moral functioning has gained considerable theoretical and empirical attention over the
last 25 years. A general consensus has emerged that the self plays a vital role in individuals’ moral agency.
This surge of research produced a proliferation of constructs related to the moral self, each grounded in
diverse theoretical perspectives. Although this work has advanced our understanding of moral thought and
behavior, there has also been a lack of clarity as to the nature and functioning of the moral self. We review
and synthesize empirical research related to the moral self and provide an integrative framework to increase
conceptual coherence among the various relevant constructs. We then discuss emerging opportunities and
future directions for research on the moral self as well as implications for behavioral ethics in organizational
contexts. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Keywords: moral self; moral identity centrality; moral judgment disposition; self-conscious moral
orientation; self-conscious moral emotions; moral strength; moral functioning
The corruption and scandals that have plagued organizations in recent years have prompted significant interest in the
study of ethical work behavior. Accounting for human moral functioning and behavior, however, has proven to be a
complex and difficult problem. Initial research relied heavily on Kohlberg’s (1969) cognitive moral development
theory, which emphasizes the importance of moral reasoning to explain ethical behavior. Indeed, research has shown
that cognitive moral development predicts moral behavior (see Treviño, Weaver, & Reynolds, 2006 for a review) but
that the strength of these effects varies considerably and is modest at best (Blasi, 1980). This weak and inconsistent
relationship between moral judgment and moral behavior is known as the “judgment–action gap” (Walker, 2004, p. 1).
This judgment–action gap motivated the search for more comprehensive theoretical frameworks in which moral psychologists (e.g., Lapsley & Narvaez, 2004) and, recently, organizational behavior ethics researchers (e.g., Treviño
et al., 2006), have focused on the moral self as the key to explaining the complexity of human moral functioning.
We propose that a deeper understanding of what constitutes the moral self, and its development is essential to advancing
research on ethical behavior in morally complex and challenging organizational contexts.
Scholarly interest in the moral self traces back to Aristotle who expounded a holistic concept of the moral self
grounded in character and virtue (Solomon, 1992). Yet, it was only after Blasi (1983) introduced his “self model”
of moral functioning that the topic gained momentum. Blasi sought to bridge the judgment–action gap by proposing
that moral action results from the integration of morality into one’s sense of self (e.g., Erikson, 1964). A person has a
moral self to the extent that moral notions (e.g., moral values, ideals, goals, and concerns) are central to selfunderstanding (Blasi, 1993), which motivates felt responsibility to behave consistent with those notions. Blasi’s
model has proven to be foundational for moral self theory and launched the post-Kohlbergian era of scholarly
work (Aquino & Reed, 2002; Lapsley & Narvaez, 2005). A surge of research followed (e.g., Aquino & Reed,
2002; Haidt, 2001; Lapsley & Narvaez, 2004). However, this work is not integrated into a holistic framework,
*Correspondence to: Peter L. Jennings, Leavy School of Business, Department of Management, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real,
Santa Clara, CA 95053, U.S.A. E-mail: [email protected]
†
Note that these authors are listed alphabetically and contributed equally.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received 02 May 2012
Revised 10 December 2013, Accepted 10 December 2013
THE MORAL SELF
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which has created ambiguity about the nature of the moral self. Reviews (Hardy & Carlo, 2005; Narvaez &
Lapsley, 2009; Shao, Aquino, & Freeman, 2008) and edited books (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2004; Narvaez &
Lapsley, 2009) have consolidated some aspects of this literature, but a review surveying empirical research
and its significance to ethical behavior in organizations is lacking.
Our review seeks to bring clarity to the state of knowledge about the moral self and provide directions for future
research. We begin with an overview of the theory of the moral self and review empirical work that has explicitly
examined the moral self as a focal construct. Our goals are to capture the main empirical findings associated with
the moral self that are relevant to organizations and synthesize these findings into an integrative framework. We also
discuss emerging opportunities and future research directions, with an emphasis on the implications for the nature of
the moral self and its functioning in organizational contexts.
Theory of the Moral Self
Moral self research is based on the Aristotelian premise that morality is a characteristic of a person and not simply a
result of abstract moral reasoning (Blasi, 1993; Solomon, 1992). Morality is understood to be at the heart of what it
means to be a person (Narvaez & Lapsley, 2009). The moral self is concerned with the morality of selfhood (the
qualities by virtue of which a person is oneself) that implicates both who a person is (a person’s sense of self and
identity based on deeply felt concerns, commitments, and attachments) and how a person acts (a person’s characteristic ways of thinking, feeling, and regulating behavior; Baumeister, 1987; Solomon, 1992). These ideas follow an
ontological tradition in moral philosophy and psychology, which posit that the self involves both a private dimension rooted in the core of one’s being and a public dimension manifested in an orientation to be true to oneself in
action (Erikson, 1964; Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975; James, 1892/2001; Schlenker, 1980; Solomon, 1992).
Thus, moral self research has focused on explaining (i) how morality is internalized into a person’s sense of self,
which we refer to as the “having” side of the moral self, and (ii) how that internalized morality influences cognitive
and affective self-regulatory capacities that govern decisions and behavior, which we refer to as the “doing” side of
the moral self.
The “having” side of the moral self is cognitively and socially constructed (Bandura, 1991; Harter, 1999). Social
construction occurs through roles, practices, and interpersonal interactions within the social-moral context in which
a person is embedded, such as family, community, or organization (Harter, 1999; Hunter, 2000). Cognitive construction occurs through individuals’ beliefs about their self (i.e., self-concepts and identities) on the basis of social
interactions that bring meaning to their experiences (Harter, 1999). When these socially and cognitively constructed
beliefs are based on morality, a person is understood as “having” a moral self.
The “doing” side of the moral self emerges when these moral beliefs invoke self-relevant cognitions, evaluations,
emotions, and regulatory processes that motivate moral action (Aquino & Freeman, 2009). The “doing” side underscores the executive agency of the self to take responsibility, make decisions, initiate actions, and exert control over
itself and the environment (Baumeister, 1998). Without this executive function, the moral self would be a “mere
helpless spectator of events, of minimal use or importance” (Baumeister, 1998, p. 680). Cognitive and affective
self-regulatory capacities are essential to agency, governing nearly all the self’s activities, especially those
concerning morality (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994; Carver & Scheier, 1981; Higgins, 1996). As such,
the “doing” side of the moral self has been described as a self-regulatory mechanism that motivates moral action
(e.g., Aquino & Reed, 2002; Blasi, 1984; Erikson, 1964; Hart, Atkins, & Ford, 1998).
In sum, this “having” and “doing” conceptualization of the moral self implies that the moral self is not a standalone construct or variable but is a complex amalgam of moral constructs and processes, wherein self-defining moral
beliefs, orientations, and dispositions implicate cognitive and affective self-regulatory capacities essential to moral
action. This holistic understanding reflects an emerging trend in both moral psychology (Narvaez & Lapsley,
2009) and self psychology more generally (Baumeister, 1998; Leary & Tangney, 2012). Consistent with these ideas,
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
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P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
we define the moral self as a complex system of self-defining moral attributes involving moral beliefs, orientations,
dispositions, and cognitive and affective capacities that engage regulatory focus toward moral behavior.
Review of Empirical Research on the Moral Self
To be as comprehensive of the published empirical work as possible, we searched abstracts of published articles
appearing in EBSCO and ABI Inform databases, using search terms derived from our moral self definition and further targeted studies referring to one of the terms “moral” or “ethic.” Our review of the empirical research reveals
five categories of moral self constructs (moral centrality, moral judgment disposition, self-conscious moral orientation, self-conscious moral emotions, and moral strength), which we depict in an emergent process model of the
moral self (Figure 1). Below, we describe the five categories of moral self constructs and then summarize empirical
work examining them. Our review describes research that empirically tested the specific constructs that fit within our
moral self definition and does not include results of correlates outside of these moral self variables.
Emergent moral self constructs
The five categories of moral self constructs are as follows: (i) moral centrality (the degree to which morality is pivotal to one’s self-understanding; e.g., moral identity and moral self-concept); (ii) moral judgment disposition (the
stable tendency to take a specific moral perspective in decisions and action; e.g., ethical ideology and ethical predisposition); (iii) self-conscious moral orientation (an orientation to perceive and reflect on moral implications of one’s
experiences; e.g., moral attentiveness and moral sensitivity); (iv) self-conscious moral emotions (the degree to which
Figure 1. Synopsis of empirical work on the moral self
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
THE MORAL SELF
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morality evokes evaluative and affective aspects of the self; e.g., guilt, shame and pride); and (v) moral strength (the
degree to which morality is an enduring quality that provides the capacity and conation [impetus to act] to achieve
moral ends; e.g., moral potency and moral character).
Constructs associated with moral centrality have received the most research attention in emergent moral self theory. Constructs included in the other four categories are less researched and less frequently associated with moral
self theory but nonetheless capture important aspects of the moral self. In particular, constructs associated with moral
judgment disposition and self-conscious moral orientation tend to emphasize the “having” side, as they involve the
internalization of morality into a person’s sense of self and identity. Constructs associated with self-conscious moral
emotions and moral strength emphasize the “doing” side, or moral agency. Although these five categories are not
likely all-inclusive, they are the most prevalent in the literature. We describe each category and the constructs
aligned within them.
Moral centrality
A large body of research has explored how central morality and being a moral person are to one’s self-concept
(Table 1). Although a number of constructs and labels for moral centrality have emerged (e.g., moral identity and
moral self-concept), each involve the degree to which moral qualities, concerns, commitments, or goals are significant definitional components of the self. Much of this literature on moral centrality (approximately 70 percent of the
empirical work) has adopted Aquino and Reed’s (2002) concept of moral identity, defined as “a self-conception organized around a set of moral traits” (p. 1424). Consistent with the having and doing bases of the moral self, their
approach offers two moral identity dimensions: internalization (or the degree to which moral traits, such as being
caring, compassionate, and fair, are central to one’s self-concept) and symbolization (or the degree to which such
moral traits are reflected in choices and actions). The internationalization dimension aligns with the “having” side
of the moral self, whereas the symbolization dimension aligns with the “doing” side of the moral self.
Moral judgment disposition
Moral judgment disposition refers to how morality is internalized into a person’s self-concept to form a distinct
moral perspective that informs moral judgments. We review three types of moral dispositions: (i) ethical ideology
(Forsyth, 1980), (ii) ethical predisposition (Brady & Wheeler, 1996), and (iii) moral communion (Schwartz,
1992) (Table 2). Each of these constructs derives from different philosophical and theoretical traditions. For instance, ethical ideology describes a tendency to adopt ideal or relative principles in moral decisions (Forsyth,
1980). Idealism reflects a “right” course of action—an absolute ethical solution—in all situations. Relativism reflects
a consideration for contextualizing ethical judgments and action choices. These two axis create four “types” of ethical ideologies: (i) situationism (relying on context analysis to assess morally questionable actions), (ii) absolutism
(relying on universal moral principles), (iii) subjectivism (relying on personal values), and (iv) exceptionism (understanding exceptions apply, instead of moral absolutes). Alternatively, Brady and Wheeler (1996) proposed that
ethical predispositions represent ethical “lenses,” or the tendency to rely on utilitarianism or formalism in decisions.
Utilitarianism reflects a reliance on considering consequences in ethical processing, whereas formalism reflects a
reliance on rules, principles, and guidelines. Last, in his work on cultural values, Schwartz (1992) proposed that
individuals may hold a tendency to advance the interests of others, called a moral communion.
Self-conscious moral orientation
Self-conscious moral orientation refers to the internalization of moral notions that invokes a sensitivity or responsiveness to moral implications in ethical and moral issues (Morton, Worthley, Testerman, & Mahoney, 2006;
Reynolds, 2006; Sparks & Hunt, 1998). We review research related to two self-conscious moral orientations: moral
sensitivity and moral attentiveness (Table 3). Moral sensitivity represents a general orientation toward moral implications on the basis of past decisions and behaviors (Morton et al., 2006; Sparks & Hunt, 1998). Moral attentiveness
is “the extent to which one chronically perceives and considers morality and moral elements in his or her experiences” (Reynolds, 2008, p. 1028). Reynolds (2008) found that there are two dimensions of moral attentiveness:
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Neutralization
strategies,
self-concept
theory, theories
of the self
Social-cognitive
theory (SCT),
theories of self,
and moral identity
Theories of
emotion (moral
elevation)
and the self
(self-regulation
and moral identity)
SCT, theories of
self, and moral
identity
Aquino
et al. (2009)
Aquino
et al. (2011)
Aquino and
Reed (2002)
Theory used
Aquino and
Becker (2005)
Study
Research design
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Study 1: Instrument
development; EFA
sample: 363
undergraduate students;
CFA sample: 347 alumni,
working adults
Study 1: Experiment;
436 undergraduate
students
Study 2: reflection
survey; 443 Ipsos
panelists
Study 3:
Experiment; 63
undergraduate students
Study 4:
Experiment; 129
undergraduate
students
Study 1: Experiment;
92 undergraduate
business students
Study 2: Experiment;
55 undergraduate
business students
Study 3: Experiment;
224 undergraduate
business students
Study 4: Experiment;
33 undergraduate
business students
Experiment; 192
MBA students
Table 1. Empirical work on moral centrality.
Antecedents of
the moral self
(Z)
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Internalization moral
identity (Z)
Moral attributes
Moral self
variable(s)
Volunteerism
Intrinsic
satisfaction to
volunteering
Prosocial behavioral
intentions
Prosocial behaviors
-Money allocation
-Donations
Intention to donate
money
Intention to lie
Moral prime (IV)
Financial prime (Z)
Reward size (Z)
Feedback on others’
choices (Z)
Acts of uncommon
goodness (Z)
Moral elevation (M)
Neutralization
-Minimization
-Denigration
Outcome variables
of the moral self
Psychological
distress (IV)
Ethical climate (IV)
Moral
consequences (IV)
Lying (IV)
Other variables
studied on outcomes
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J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Barriga
et al. (2001)
Aquino
et al. (2007)
Study
Theory used
Theories of moral
judgment and
moral self-concept
Theories of self,
neutralization,
moral
disengagement
Table 1. (Continued)
Cross-sectional survey;
193 undergraduate
students
Study 1: Reflection-based
cross-sectional, singlesource survey study; 104
university employees
Study 2: Experiment; 69
undergraduates,
administrative staff, and
community members of
NE U.S.A.
Study 2: Convergent
validity: 124
undergraduate students
Study 3: Nomological and
discriminant validity: 55
master’s student.
Study 4: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey
study; 160 high school
students
Study 5: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey
study; 330 undergraduate
students
Study 6: time-lagged,
single-source survey
study; 145 high school
students
Research design
Antecedents of
the moral self
Moral selfrelevance (IV)
Internalization moral
identity (Z)
Moral self
variable(s)
Moral
judgment (IV)
Self-serving
cognitive
distortion (IV)
Gender (IV)
Moral
disengagement (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
(Continues)
Antisocial
behavior
Intent to punish
wrongdoer
Negative
emotions
Perceived
freedom of
volunteering
Depth of
involvement to
volunteering
Donation
behavior
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
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J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Theories of the
self, selfregulation, and
moral identity
Theories of moral
imagination, the
self, and moral
identity
Theories of self
(self-esteem and
self-concept)
Caldwell and
Moberg (2007)
Christensen,
Brayden,
Dietrich,
McLaughlin,
and Sherrod
(1994)
Theory used
Brebels
et al. (2011)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 609
women who received
prenatal care at a hospital
Scenario-based
experiment; 164
undergraduate students
Study 1: Experiment; 68
undergraduate students
Study 2: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey; 270
organizational supervisors
Study 3: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey with
multiple sources (focal
and coworker); 103
employee–coworker
matched dyads
Research design
Antecedents of
the moral self
Self-concept
dimensions (IV)
-Physical
-Personal
-Family
-Social
Total conflict (IV)
Social identity (IV)
Self-satisfaction (IV)
Maladjustment (IV)
Psychosis (IV)
Personality
disorder (IV)
Neurosis (IV)
Deviant signs (IV)
Defensive
positive (IV)
Integration index
score (IV)
Moral self-concept (IV)
Neglect of
birthed child
Physical abuse
of birthed child
Moral
imagination
Ethical culture (IV)
Moral identity
(internalization and
symbolization
combined) (IV)
Moral identity
(internalization and
symbolization
combined) (Z)
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Procedural
justice
enactment
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Regulatory focus
-Promotionfocused (Z)
-Preventionfocused (Z)
Moral self
variable(s)
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J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of
emotion regulation,
the self, and moral
identity
SCT, theories of
self, and selfconsistency
Côté et al.
(2011)
Daniels et al.
(2011)
Theories of power,
self-interest, the
self, and moral
identity
Theories of moral
licensing and the
moral self
Conway and
Peetz (2012)
DeCelles et al.
(2012)
Theories of moral
judgment and
disassociation
Theory used
Conway and
Gawronski
(2013)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Study 1: Scenario-based
experiment; 173 working
adults (recruited from
Qualtrics.com)
Study 2: Experiment; 102
undergraduate students
Cross-sectional, singlesource scenario-based
survey; 155 working
adults (recruited from
Craigslist and current and
recent MBA and MA
graduates)
Scenario-based survey:
131 undergraduate
students
Scenario-based
experiment; 151 American
Mechanical Turk
participants
Study 1 only: Scenariobased experiment; 112
undergraduate students
Research design
Antecedents of
the moral self
Internalization moral
identity (Z)
Moral identity
Internalization (IV)
Symbolization (IV)
Ethical sensitivity (DV)
Moral identity
(internalization and
symbolization
combined) (IV)
Moral identity vs.
immoral identity (IV)
Internalization moral
identity (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
(Z)
Power (IV)
Self-interested
behavior
Ethical
sensitivity
Prosocial
behavior
Emotional
regulation
knowledge (Z)
Ethical culture
Donation
intention
Deontological
inclination
Utilitarian
inclination
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Personal
identity (Z)
Empathy (IV)
Perspective
taking (IV)
Need for
cognition (IV)
Faith in
intuition (IV)
Religiosity (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of self,
self-perception,
and cognitive
theory
Theories of selfinterest, the self,
moral centrality,
and moral
judgment
Doron et al.
(2012)
Frimer and
Walker (2009)
Grubisic and
Goic (1998)
SCT, theories of
moral
disengagement,
moral agency, the
self, and moral
identity
Theory used
Detert et al.
(2008)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Time-separated, single-source
survey; 2248 undergraduate
students from 24 institutions
from 14 countries
Multi-wave (3 time periods),
single-source survey and
interview (coding procedures for
some variables); 191 students
recruited from public posting in
student clubs
Study 1: Experiment; 43
undergraduates
Study 2: Experiment; 150
community participants
Study 3: Experiment; 86
community participants
Multi-wave (3 time periods),
single-source survey; 307
business and education
undergraduate students
Research design
Country status
(in transition
or not)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Ethical values
Physical
contamination
concerns
Ethical values (DV)
Self-relevant
information (Z)
Moral behavior
(coded)
(IV)
Unethical
decision making
Empathy (IV)
Trait cynicism (IV)
Change in locus
of control (IV)
Internal locus of
control (IV)
Power locus of
control (IV)
Moral
disengagement (M)
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Moral centrality
-Communal
values (IV)
-Agentic values (IV)
Moral selfperceptions
Internalization moral
identity (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of the
self, moral identity,
and emotion
Theories of
emotion, the self,
and moral self
Johnston and
Krettenauer
(2011)
Kavussanu et al.
(2012)
Theories of self
and self-concept
Haynes (1990)
Theories of selfcompletion, social
cognition, the self,
and moral identity
Theories of social
control, the self,
moral identity, and
moral cognitions
Hardy et al.
(2012)
Jordan et al.
(2011)
Theories of
psychological
distance, the self,
and moral identity
Theory used
Hardy et al.
(2010)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Experiment, using
emotive pictures; 94
athletes
Recollection-based, crosssectional, single-source
survey; 61 MBA students
Vignette-style interview;
205 adolescents
Cross-sectional, singlesource survey; 60 teachers
of 142 randomly selected
middle school children
Cross-sectional, singlesource survey; 502
secondary school students
Cross-sectional, singlesource survey; 1059 high
school students
Research design
Recalled (coded)
moral behavior
Religious
commitment (IV)
Religious
involvement (Z)
Parenting style
-Responsiveness (IV)
-Autonomy
granting (IV)
-Demandingness (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Internalization moral
identity (IV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Evoked emotion
(pleasant,
unpleasant, and
neutral) (Z)
Moral norm
regarded
emotions (IV)
Moral norm
disregarded
emotions (IV)
Moral self-concept (IV)
(Continues)
Startle reaction
Pain-related
reaction
Prosocial
behavior
Antisocial
behavior
Classroom
behavior
Group
participation
Attitude toward
authority
Self-concept
dimensions (IV)
-Physical
-Personal
-Family
-Social
Moral self-concept (IV)
Social
dominance
orientation
Circle of moral
regard
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Empathy
Aggression
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Internalization moral
identity (M)
Moral identity
-Symbolization (IV)
-Internalization (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of self,
self-concept, and
moral self
Kouchaki
(2011)
Moral emotions
theory and
principles of
moral self
Theories of the
self, selfdevelopment, and
moral self
Kochanska et al.
(2010)
Krettenauer and
Johnston (2011)
Theories of
socialization, the
self, and selfdevelopment
Theory used
Kochanska,
Gross, Lin, and
Nichols (2002)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Cross-sectional, single
source, scenario-based
survey; 155 teenagers,
grades 7 through 11, with
a sample of 50
undergraduate students
Study 2 only: Scenariobased experiment; 190
undergraduate students
Longitudinal study of
two-parent families with
infants (recruited via ad in
community), assessments
made at 25, 38, 52, 67,
and 80 months. Across
each, N varied from 43 to
100 families.
Observations coded
Time-lagged, multi-source
surveys/interviews (coded
observations); 112
mothers with their
newborn children
(recruited via an ad in the
community)
Research design
Credentials of
applicant (IV)
Ethnicity of
applicant (IV)
Fear (IV)
Mother’s powerassertive discipline (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Self-importance of
moral values (IV)
Guilt (DV)
Pride (DV)
Internalization moral
identity (IV)
Context type
-Prosocial
action (IV)
-Temptation (IV)
-Antisocial (IV)
Guilt
Pride
Other emotions
(embarrassment,
fear, sadness,
happiness,
anger, and
satisfaction)
Positive or
negative
emotion
Willingness to
express
prejudice
Socialization
Internalization of
mother and father
rules (IV)
Empathetic
concern for each
parent (IV)
Moral self (IV)
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Moral self
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Moral self (DV)
Guilt (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
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Theories of moral
judgment, the
moral self, and
moral commitment
Goal theory, theory
of planned
behavior
Theories of self,
moral self, and
self-deception
Theories of social
learning, moral
identity, and social
cognition
Lee et al. (2008)
Lu and Chang
(2011)
Mayer et al.
(2012)
Theory used
Kurpis et al.
(2008)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Study 1: Multi-source,
cross-sectional
survey; employees
and supervisors from
the same work unit
recruited via
convenient sampling
technique; data for
137 departments
(range of 1–5
employees within
each department) but
included only units
with 3+ response sets;
final N = 115
Study 2: Same design/
procedure as Study 1;
195 departments (with
891 employees and
195 supervisors)
Scenario-based, crosssectional, singlesource survey; 160
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
491 secondary school
students from school
or club competitions
Scenario-based, crosssectional, singlesource survey; 242
undergraduate
students
Research design
Religiosity
(IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Leader moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Unit-level perceived
ethical leadership (M)
Self-consciousness (Z)
Moral self-concept (IV)
(Continues)
Unethical behavior
Relational conflict
Intention to help
without benefit to
the self
Prosocial attitude
Antisocial attitude
Competence
values (IV)
Task orientation (M)
Ego orientation (M)
Moral values (IV)
Outcome variables
of the moral self
Importance of
ethics
Ethical problem
recognition
Ethical behavioral
intentions
Other variables
studied on outcomes
Commitment to
moral selfimprovement (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
THE MORAL SELF
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 655
undergraduate
students
Theories of
cognitive moral
development and
social information
processing
O’Fallon and
Butterfield
(2011)
Study 1: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 52
female employees of
mid-sized speech
therapy services
organization
Study 2: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 145
undergraduate
students
Scenario-based,
cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; convenient
sample of 222
shoppers
Theories of moral
personality, the
self, and moral
identity
McFerran et al.
(2010)
Scenario-based,
cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 388
undergraduate
students
Research design
Michaelidou and
Hassan (2008)
Theories of self
and selfenhancement
Theory used
McCuddy
(2007)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Student cheating (IV)
Ethical norms of
cheating (Z)
Other students’
approval of cheating (Z)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Coworkers
organizational
deviance (IV)
Need for
affiliation (Z)
Introversion (Z)
Negative
relationships (Z)
Food safety
concern (IV)
Health
conscientiousness (IV)
Organic food
attitude (M)
Ethical self-identity (IV)
Internalization moral
identity (Z)
Moral personality
(conscientiousness,
agreeableness and
openness to
experience
combined) (IV)
Ethical
ideology (Study 2 M)
Other variables
studied on outcomes
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Ethical
ideology (Study 1 DV)
Ethical selfenhancement (DV)
Moral self
variable(s)
Observers’
organizational
deviance
Intent to purchase
organic food
Ethical
ideology (Study 1 DV)
Citizenship
behavior
Propensity to
morally disengage
Ethical selfenhancement
Outcome variables
of the moral self
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DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of
socialization and
moral reasoning
Theories of the
self (self-esteem
and moral selfconcept)
Pratt et al.
(2003)
Rancer et al.
(1992)
Theories of the
self (moral selfconcept and
self-protection)
and moral
identity
Theories of
moral
development
and judgment,
and implicit
personality
Perugini and
Leone (2009)
Reed and
Aquino (2003)
Theories of
socialization, the
self, and moral
identity
Theory used
Patrick and
Gibbs (2012)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Study 1/Sample 1:
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 137
undergraduate
students
Study 1/Sample 2:
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 55
MBA students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 132
undergraduate
students
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 896
high school students
Study 1:
Experiment; 46
undergraduates
Study 2: Scenariobased experiment;
112 individuals
Multi-source survey
design (); 102
adolescents and their
mother participated
Research design
Community
involvement (IV)
Parental moral
emphasis (Z)
Parental discipline (IV)
-Induction
-Power assertion
-Love withdrawal
Antecedents of
the moral self
(DV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
In/out-group (IV)
American
identity (IV)
Response type (IV)
(Continues)
Circle of moral
regard
Willing to
exchange
resourcesPerceived
worthiness
Willingness to
donate Perceptions
of acceptable
deaths
Moral evaluation
Verbal aggression
Effectance (IV)
Social selfesteem (IV)
Body image (IV)
Defensive selfenhancement (IV)
Moral self-esteem (IV)
Cheating behavior
Moral temptation
intention
Moral evaluations
Moral identity
Perceived fairness
Experience guilt
Positive/negative
emotion
Outcome variables
of the moral self
Moral qualities of
self-ideal
Honesty–
humility (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Moral qualities of
self-ideal (DV)
Implicit moral selfconcept (IV)
Moral identity
Moral self
variable(s)
THE MORAL SELF
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Reed et al.
(2007)
Study
Theory used
Theory of the self
and moral identity
Table 1. (Continued)
Study 1a: Scenario-based,
cross-sectional, single-source
survey; 242 undergraduate
students
Study 1b: Scenario-based
experiment; convenient
sample of 58 undergraduate
students, administrative staff,
and local community
residents
Study 2: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey; 274
full-time alumni
Study 3: Scenario-based
experiment; convenient
sample of 179 undergraduate
students, administrative staff,
and local community
residents
Study 2: Scenario-based,
single-source survey study;
75 undergraduate students
Study 3: Scenario-based,
single-source, multi-wave
design, where data were
collected 5 weeks apart in 3
phases; 58 undergraduate
students
Study 4: Scenario-based
experiment, 2-wave design,
where data were collected
2 months apart; 85
undergraduate students
Research design
Antecedents of
the moral self
Moral identity
-Internalization (Z)
-Symbolization (Z)
Moral self
variable(s)
Charitable
behavior of
company (IV)
Corporate giving
type (time or
money) (IV)
Position status (IV)
Moral
organization (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Moral evaluation
Donation
preference
Donation intention
Charitable giving
Cheating behavior
Outcome variables
of the moral self
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DOI: 10.1002/job
Study 1: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
226 undergraduate
students
Study 2: Cross-sectional,
single-source scenariobased survey; 292
managers employed in a
variety of organizations
recruited through
StudyResponse.com
Theories of moral
judgment, moral
self, and moral
identity
Reynolds and
Ceranic (2007)
Research design
Study 1: Item
development for moral
attentiveness measure:
cross-sectional, singlesource survey; 123
undergraduate students
Study 2: Validity
evidence: 241
undergraduates
Study 3: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
242 managers recruited
from StudyResponse.
com
Study 4: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
159 MBA students
Study 5: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey; 74
undergraduates and 81
MBAs
Theory used
Reynolds (2008)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Moral identity
-Internalization (Z)
-Symbolization (Z)
Moral attentiveness
-Perceptual (IV)
-Reflective (IV)
Moral identity (DV)
Moral self
variable(s)
Consequentialist
moral judgment (Z)
Formalist moral
judgment (Z)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
(Continues)
Charitable giving
Cheating behavior
Behavioral intention
Correlates
(Study 2)
-Normlessness
-Nurturance
-Moral identity
-Agreeableness
-Conscientiousness
Moral behavior
Moral awareness
Outcome variables
of the moral self
THE MORAL SELF
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DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of deontic
justice, moral selfregulation, and
self-interest
Theory of moral
self-regulation
Rupp and Bell
(2010)
Sachdeva et al.
(2009)
Theories of the
self, moral identity,
and goal
orientation
Theories of self
and self-concept
Rosenbloom
et al. (2009)
Sage et al.
(2006)
Theory of moral
values, personality
Theory used
Rosenberg
(1987)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Cross-sectional, singlesource survey; 210 male
football players, recruited
from clubs and
competitions
Study 1: Experiment,
recall survey with a
coding design; 46
undergraduate students
Study 2: Experiment,
recall survey with a
coding design; 39
undergraduate students
Study 3: Experiment,
recall survey with a
coding design; 46
undergraduate students
Experiment and coding
design; 156 undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional, singlesource survey; 100
undergraduate students
Scenario-based, crosssectional, single-source
survey; 142 undergraduate
students
Research design
Antecedents of
the moral self
Internalization moral
identity (IV)
Neutral moral trait (IV)
Positive moral traits
(e.g., internalization
moral identity
traits) (IV)
Negative moral
trait (IV)
Task goal
orientation
Ego goal
orientation
(Z)
(Z)
Prosocial
functioning
Prosocial
judgments
Antisocial
functioning
Antisocial
judgments
Donation
behavior
Cooperative
behavior
Punishing a
harmdoer
Retributive
motives (IV)
Self-interested
motives (IV)
Equality
motives (IV)
Moral self-regulation
motives (IV)
Reported
dangerousness
of driving
Gender (Z)
Moral self-concept (IV)
Ethical
behavioral
intentions
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Business goals (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Moral values (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
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DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Retaliation and
deontic justice
principles, theories
of the self, and
moral identity
Theories of the self
and moral identity
Control systems
approach of
identity theory
Skarlicki et al.
(2008)
Stets and Carter
(2011)
Stets and Carter
(2012)
Van der Wal and
de Graaf (2006)
Dual processing
theories, deontic
justice, theories of
the self, and moral
identity
Theory used
Skarlicki and
Rupp (2010)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Cross-sectional, singlesource survey; 778
managers from public
organizations and 500
managers from private
organizations
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 369
undergraduate students
Study 1: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
545 undergraduate
students
Study 2: Experiment;
with same students as
Study 1
Cross-sectional, singlesource survey that
adopted critical incident
technique; performance
was provided by human
resources of the
company; 358 customer
service representatives
employed in a call center
Scenario experiment;
185 managers enrolled in
an executive MBA
program
Research design
Employer type (public
or private sector) (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Moral self-image (DV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
Internalization moral
identity (IV)
Moral identity
discrepancy (IV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (Z)
-Symbolization (Z)
Symbolization moral
identity (Z)
Moral self
variable(s)
(Continues)
Moral selfimage
Guilt
Shame
Perceptions of
immoral
behavior
Positive/
negative
emotion
Task ability (Z)
Moral
meanings (IV)
Feelings rule (IV)
Moral identity
discrepancy (M)
Moral behavior (M)
Job performance
Retaliatory
intentions
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Customer
interpersonal
injustice (IV)
Customer-directed
sabotage (M)
Supervisor
mistreatment (IV)
Experiential or
rational prime (Z)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
THE MORAL SELF
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Self-regulation
theory, theories of
self-control, the
self, and moral
identity
Moral justification
and rationalization
principles, theories
of the self, and
moral identity
Transformational
leadership theory,
theories of the self
and moral identity
Vitell et al.
(2011)
Weichun
et al. (2011)
Theory used
Vitell et al.
(2009)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Study 1: 672
participants from
research panel
(Zoomerang.com);
336 cases used to
test exploratory
factor structure of
moral identity
measure; 336 cases
used to test
predictions
Study 2: Scenariobased experiment;
215 teachers from
several public school
systems participated
in web-based
experiment
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 205 business
practitioners
recruited from a
random sample of
2500 from a national
commercially
provided mailing list
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 110
undergraduate
students
Research design
Transformational
leadership
Transactional
leadership
Religiosity
-Intrinsic (IV)
-Extrinsic (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Moral identity (DV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization(IV)
Other variables studied
on outcomes
Institutionalization
-Implicit (IV)
-Explicit (IV)
Religiosity
-Intrinsic (IV)
-Extrinsic (IV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (DV)
-Symbolization (DV)
Moral self
variable(s)
Moral identity
Moral justification
Moral identity
-Internalization
-Symbolization
Outcome variables
of the moral self
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Social-cognitive
theory, consumer
identity theory,
theories of the self
and moral identity
Social identity
theory; theories of
the self and moral
identity
Winterich,
Mittal,
et al. (2013)
Winterich
et al. (2009)
Study 1: Scenariobased experiment; 143
undergraduates
Study 2: Scenariobased experiment; 258
undergraduates
Study 3: Scenariobased experiment; 233
adults from an online
marketing research
panel across the U.S.A.
Study 1: Experimental
survey; 410 adults from
an online research
panel in U.S.A.
Study 2: Experimental
survey; 197 adults from
online research panel in
U.S.A.
Study 3: Experimental
survey; 267 adults from
an online research
panel in U.S.A.
Study 1: Experimental
survey; 293 adults from
an online research
panel in U.S.A.
Study 2: Experimental
survey; 231 adults from
online research panel in
U.S.A.
Research design
Recognition of
prosocial behavior
Antecedents of
the moral self
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Internalization
moral identity (IV)
Inclusion of other
in self (M)
Gender identity (Z)
Donation group
type (Z)
Moral identity
Recognition of
-Internalization (Z) donation behavior
-General
-Symbolization (Z)
recognition (IV)
-Private
recognition (IV)
-Public
recognition (IV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (Z)
-Symbolization (Z)
Moral self
variable(s)
Donation intention
Donation behavior
Prosocial behavior
Outcome variables
of the moral self
Note: Moral self variables that also represent dependent variables in the studies are indicated with the DV designation and are repeated in the “dependent variable” column.
IV = independent variable; DV = dependent variable; M = mediator variable; Z = moderator variable.
Social-cognitive
theory; theories of
the self and moral
identity
Theory used
Winterich,
Aquino,
et al. (2013)
Study
Table 1. (Continued)
THE MORAL SELF
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Principles of
emotional
intelligence and
ethical ideology
Principles of
ethical disposition
and ethical
decision making
Individual
differences
principles,
theories of
moral self and
moral thought
Individual
differences
principles,
theories of
moral self and
moral thought
Individual
differences
principles,
theories of
moral self and
moral thought
Brady and
Wheeler (1996)
Forsyth (1980)
Forsyth (1985)
Forsyth (1993)
Theory used
Angelidis and
Ibrahim (2011)
Study
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 164
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 64
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 108
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 141
employees of large
financial institution
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 344
managers enrolled
in executive MBA
program from 5
universities
Research design
Table 2. Empirical work on moral judgment disposition.
Antecedents of
the moral self
Ethical
ideology (IV)
Ethical
ideology (IV)
Ethical
ideology (IV)
Ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism (IV)
-Formalism (IV)
Ethical
ideology (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
(IV)
Motive type (IV)
Outcome type (IV)
Gender (IV)
Consequence
type (IV)
Moral standard
Conformity to
norms (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Self evaluation
Self-esteem
Cognitive reactions
Moral judgment
Ethical attitude
Character trait
Emotional
intelligence
Outcome
variables of
the moral self
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Principles of
agency and
moral personality
Goal orientation
theory, principles
of ethical ideology
Principles of
ethical ideology
Theories of moral
personality, the self,
and moral identity
Frimer et al.
(2011)
Luzadis and
Gerhardt (2011)
Marta
et al. (2012)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
McFerran
et al. (2010)
Study 1: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 52
female employees
of mid-sized
speech therapy
services
organization
Study 2: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 145
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 453
individuals
(recruited members
from the American
Marketing
Association)
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 321
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
critical incident/
recollection-based,
single-source
survey; 111
students recruited
from student clubs
Corporate ethical
values (IV)
(IV)
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Ethical
ideology (Study 1 DV)
(Continues)
Ethical
ideology (Study 1 DV)
Citizenship behavior
Propensity to
morally disengage
Ethical intentions
Ethical ideology
-Idealism (Z)
-Relativism (Z)
Evaluation of
moral exemplar
Goal orientation
-Learning goal
-Performanceapproach goal
-Performanceavoidance goal
Moral personality
(conscientiousness,
agreeableness, and
openness to
experience
combined) (IV)
Ethical
ideology (Study 2 M)
Agency
orientation
Ethical ideology
-Idealism (IV)
-Relativism (IV)
Communion moral
orientation (IV)
THE MORAL SELF
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Schminke
(2001)
Structure theory and
principles of ethical
predispositions
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 209
employees from a
variety of
industries within
the Midwestern
U.S.A. who were
recruited from the
author’s College
Board of Advisors
Cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
experiment;
convenient sample
of 175 full-time
managers and
undergraduate
students
Principles of gender
and morality and
ethical predispositions
Schminke
(1997)
Study 1: Scenariobased experiment;
120 MBA students
Study 2: Scenariobased experiment;
33 MBA students
Research design
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 525
employees from
large branch offices
of banking and
insurance
companies
Principles of moral
awareness, moral
intensity, and ethical
predispositions
Theory used
Ruiz-Palomino
and MartinezCañas (2011)
Reynolds (2006)
Study
Table 2. (Continued)
Organizational
size (IV)
Organizational
structure
-Participation (IV)
-Authority
hierarchy (IV)
-Formalism (IV)
Presence of
harm (IV)
Norm
violation (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism (DV)
-Formalism (DV)
Ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism (IV)
-Formalism (IV)
Relativistic ethical
ideology (IV, Z)
Ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism (Z)
-Formalism (Z)
Moral self
variable(s)
Ethical policies
Ethical
leadership (IV)
(IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism
-Formalism
Decision frame
agreement
Ethical behavioral
intentions
Moral awareness
Outcome
variables of
the moral self
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Treise, Weigold,
Conna, and
Garrison (1994)
Sparks and
Hunt (1998)
Ethical decisionmaking theory and
principles of ethical
sensitivity
Principles of ethical
predispositions, group
processes, and
leadership style
Schminke and
Wells (1999)
Singhapakdi
et al. (2001)
Theories of
organizational justice
and principles of
ethical predispositions
Schminke et al.
(1997)
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 292
Cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 453
individuals
recruited from an
American
Marketing
Association
membership
mailing list
Time-lagged,
single-source
survey; 117
graduate and
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 209
employees from 11
primarily
Midwestern
organizations,
recruited through
the authors’
College of Board
of Advisors
Country
(Australian vs.
American)
Leadership style
-Initiating (IV)
-Consideration (IV)
Group
-Cohesiveness (IV)
-Performance (IV)
Procedural
fairness (IV)
Outcome
fairness (IV)
Ethical ideology
Idealism (IV)
Relativism (IV)
Ethical ideology:
relativism (IV)
Ethical sensitivity (DV)
Ethical ideology
-Idealism (DV)
-Relativism (DV)
Change in ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism (DV)
-Formalism (DV)
Ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism (Z)
-Formalism (Z)
Subject type (IV)
Research course (IV)
Socialization
-Organizational (IV)
-Professional (IV)
Perspective
taking (IV)
Emotional
contagion (IV)
(Continues)
Evaluation program
content for children
Ethical sensitivity
Ethical ideology
-Idealism
-Relativism
Perceptions of
ethical problem
Intent to resolve
problem
Corporate
ethical values
Change in ethical
predisposition
-Utilitarianism
-Formalism
Procedural justice
perceptions
Distributive justice
perceptions
THE MORAL SELF
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J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Social dominance
theory, principles
of ethical ideology
Principles of ethical
sensitivity, ethical
ideology, and ethical
decision making
Yetmar and
Eastman (2000)
Situationalist
perspective of social
psychology,
personality principles
Walker et al.
(2010)
Wilson (2003)
Theories of moral
development, moral
action, personality
principles
Theory used
Walker and
Frimer (2007)
Study
Table 2. (Continued)
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 870
Certified Public
Accountants
recruited from the
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 160
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey and followup interview
(which was coded);
50 moral
exemplars who
were recipients of a
national award
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey and followup interview
(which was coded);
267 moral
exemplars who
were recipients of a
national award
participants
recruited from a
large mall in
southeastern
U.S.A.
Research design
Antecedents of
the moral self
Ethical ideology
-Idealism (IV)
-Relativism (IV)
Ethical ideology
-Idealism (IV)
-Relativism (IV)
Communion moral
orientation (IV)
Communion moral
orientation (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
Ethical evaluation
Role conflict (IV)
Role ambiguity (IV)
Job satisfaction (IV)
Professional
commitment (IV)
Evaluation of
moral exemplar
Social dominance
orientation
(IV)
Evaluation of
moral exemplar
Outcome
variables of
the moral self
Gender (IV)
Age (IV)
Agency
orientation
Agency
orientation (IV)
Nurturing
personality (IV)
Generative
personality (IV)
Optimistic
personality (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
S128
P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Person-organization
fit theory and
principles of ethical
predisposition
Study 1: Crosssectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 201
undergraduate
students
Study 2: Crosssectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 66
undergraduate
students
-Economic (IV)
-Legal (IV)
-Social
responsibility (IV)
Machiavellianism (IV)
Perceived company
performance
-Utilitarianism (Z)
-Formalism (Z)
Ethical
predisposition
Probability of
accepting the
job offer
Applicant attraction
to the organization
Note: Moral self variables that also represent dependent variables in the studies are indicated with the DV designation and are repeated in the “dependent variable” column.
IV = independent variable; DV = dependent variable; M = mediator variable; Z = moderator variable.
Zhang and
Gowan (2012)
Institute for
Certified Public
Accountants
THE MORAL SELF
S129
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 667
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 49 nurses
from a convenient
sample
Ozdogan and
Eser (2007)
Stress theory;
principles of
ethical climate and
moral sensitivity
Lützén et al.
(2010)
Cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; from
Taiwanese and U.S.
managers from 12
different companies
in 3 cities
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 149
medical students
Ethical decisionmaking theory and
principles of
cultural differences
Blodgett et al.
(2001)
Cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 285
undergraduate
students
Research design
Morton et al.
(2006)
Socialization
principles
Theory used
Ameen et al.
(1996)
Study
Table 3. Empirical work on self-conscious moral orientation.
Gender (IV)
College
major (IV)
Age (IV)
Grade (IV)
Family
income (IV)
School
ownership (IV)
Spiritual
maturity (IV)
Power
distance (IV)
Uncertainty
avoidance (IV)
Individualism (IV)
Gender (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
(DV)
(M)
Ethical sensitivity
Moral sensitivity
(IV)
Moral
climate
(IV)
Ethical sensitivity
Moral reasoning
Moral stress
Ethical sensitivity
-For the company
-For customers
-For competitors
-For colleagues
Ethical sensitivity for
-The company (DV)
-Customers (DV)
-Competitors (DV)
-Colleagues (DV)
Moral sensitivity
Ethical sensitivity to
questionable
activities
Outcome variables
of the moral self
Ethical sensitivity to
questionable
activities (DV)
Moral self variable(s)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
S130
P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 188
marketing research
practitioners
recruited from the
membership of the
American Marketing
Association
Sparks and
Hunt (1998)
Ethical decisionmaking theory
and principles of
ethical sensitivity
Study 1: Item
development for
moral attentiveness
measure: crosssectional, singlesource survey; 123
undergraduate
students
Study 2: Validity
evidence: 241
undergraduates
Study 3: Crosssectional, singlesource survey;
242 managers
recruited from
StudyResponse.com
Study 4: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 159
MBA students
Study 5: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 74
undergraduates
and 81 MBAs
Reynolds
(2008)
Student vs.
practitioner (IV)
Course in marketing
research (IV)
Organizational
socialization (IV)
Professional
socialization (IV)
Perspective
taking (IV)
Emotional
contagion (IV)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
(Continues)
Ethical sensitivity
Ethical ideology:
relativism (IV)
Ethical sensitivity
(DV)
Correlates
-Normlessness
-Nurturance
-Moral identity
-Agreeableness
-Conscientiousness
Moral behavior
Moral awareness
Moral attentiveness
-Perceptual (IV)
-Reflective (IV)
THE MORAL SELF
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J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Social-cognitive
theory and principles
of cognitive moral
development
Social-cognitive
theory and principles
of moral imagination
Theory used
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 224
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
multi-source data;
162 supervisor–
subordinate dyads;
subordinates were
undergraduate
students working at
least part-time and
provided permission
for the researchers
to contact their
supervisors; the
subordinate survey
was scenario-based;
supervisors reported
on subordinate
creativity
Research design
Education in
business ethics
(IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
(IV)
Moral attentiveness
-Reflective (M)
-Perceptual (M)
Moral
attentiveness
Moral self variable(s)
Employee
creativity (Z)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Perceptions of the
role of ethics and
social responsibility
Moral imagination
Outcome variables
of the moral self
Note: Moral self variables that also represent dependent variables in the studies are indicated with the DV designation and are repeated in the “dependent variable” column.
IV = independent variable; DV = dependent variable; M = mediator variable; Z = moderator variable.
Wurthmann
(2013)
Whitaker and
Godwin
(2013)
Study
Table 3. (Continued)
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THE MORAL SELF
S133
perceptual moral attentiveness (“a perceptual aspect in which information is automatically colored as it is encountered” [p. 1028] by individuals’ experiences) and reflective moral attentiveness (“a more intentional reflective aspect
by which the individual uses morality to reflect on and examine experience” [p. 1028]).
Self-conscious moral emotions
Although there are different families of moral emotions, such as other-condemning emotions of anger and disgust,
self-conscious moral emotions are uniquely tied to the moral self because they occur when people judge themselves
relative to their internalized moral standards (Haidt, 2003; Leary & Tangney, 2012). Like other moral emotions, selfconscious moral emotions emerge from situations in which others are at risk or are harmed (Haidt, 2003). However,
self-conscious moral emotions derive from self-reflection on the moral acceptability of one’s anticipated or engaged
behavior. These self-reflective processes can occur consciously or intuitively, beneath the level of awareness (Haidt,
2003; Tangney, Stuewig, & Mashek, 2007). The focus on self-reflection and monitoring makes these emotions an
integral part of the moral self (Tangney et al., 2007). Although these emotions are important to one’s sense of self
and identity (i.e., the “having” side; Peterson & Seligman, 2004), when experienced, they motivate and regulate
behavior (i.e., the “doing” side; Haidt, 2001; Haidt & Joseph, 2004). We review four primary self-conscious moral
emotions: guilt, shame, pride, and embarrassment (Table 4). Guilt is experienced when one is the cause or anticipated cause of others’ suffering or harm. Shame is experienced by a self-appraised wrong or defect with one’s sense
of self. Pride is experienced when the person “is responsible for a socially valued outcome or for being a socially
valued person” (Mascolo & Fischer, 1995, p. 66). Embarrassment is experienced when aspects of one’s self and
social identity are damaged or threatened.
Moral strength
Moral strength is the capacity and conation (impetus to act) to achieve moral ends and is a category associated with
the “doing” side of the moral self. For instance, moral character reflects individuals’ enduring moral qualities that
promote upholding moral principles (Narvaez, Lapsley, Hagele, & Lasky, 2006). Other moral strength constructs
include moral attitudes (Jackson et al., 2008), moral confidence (Krettenauer & Eichler, 2006), moral chronicity
(Narvaez et al., 2006), and moral conviction (Skitka, Bauman, & Sargis, 2005). Recent work has examined moral
potency (Hannah & Avolio, 2010; Hannah, Avolio, & May, 2011), which is a psychological state involving a sense
of ownership over the moral aspects of one’s environment (moral ownership), reinforced by beliefs in the ability to
act to achieve moral purposes in that domain (moral efficacy), and the courage to perform ethically in the face of
adversity and persevere through challenges (moral courage). Research has also assessed individuals’ duty orientation, which is a state-like volitional orientation to loyally serve and faithfully support other members of the group,
to strive and sacrifice to accomplish the tasks and missions of the group, and to honor its codes and principles
(Hannah, Jennings, Bluhm, Peng, & Schaubroeck, 2013). Each of these moral strength concepts reflects the intensity
with which individuals rely on and seek to integrate moral notions in their behavior (Table 5).
Antecedents of the moral self
Moral self theory (Aquino & Reed, 2002; Blasi, 1984) draws from self-regulation and social-cognition principles
(Bandura, 1991, 1999; Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996) to explain how the moral self is based
on individual characteristics and social interactions with others. In other words, central factors of the person and social interactions with others that have moral implications accentuate morality in one’s sense of self. Thus, we review
empirical work on individual characteristics and social factors as antecedents of the moral self.
Individual characteristics
Researchers have attempted to understand how certain individual characteristics mold one’s sense of morality.
Although research suggests that age does not influence moral centrality (Krettenauer, 2011), culture-dependent
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Moral emotion
theory
Moral emotion
theory
Cohen et al.
(2011)
de Hooge
et al. (2008)
Moral emotion
theory
Theory used
Cohen (2010)
Study
Study 1:
Experiment; 132
undergraduate
students
Study 2: Critical
incident
experiment; 135
undergraduate
students
Study 1: Item
generation of moral
emotions measure:
cross-sectional,
single-source,
scenario-based
survey; 291
undergraduate
students
Study 2: Validity
test of measure:
cross-sectional,
single-source
scenario-based
survey; 862 adults
from nationwide
online subject pool
Study 3:
Experiment; 56
MBA students
Study 2 only:
Cross-sectional,
single-source
scenario-based
survey; 172 MBA
students
Research design
Table 4. Empirical work on self-conscious moral emotions.
Antecedents of
the moral self
Imagined shame (IV)
Recalled shame (IV)
Experienced
shame (IV)
Induced
shame (IV)
Guilt (IV)
Guilt repair (IV)
Shame (IV)
Shame–
withdrawal (IV)
Guilt (IV)
Shame (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
Emotion
influence
-Exogenous
-Endogenous
Social value
orientation
Empathy (IV)
Perspectivetaking (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Prosocial
behavior
Prosocial
tendency
Unethical
business decision
Illegal behavior
Deception
Rumination
Depressive
symptoms
Unethical
bargaining
behavior
Intention to
engage in
unethical
behavior
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
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P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Moral emotion
theory and
principles of child
development
Ferguson
et al. (1991)
Theories of
moral emotion
and stress
Moral emotions
and emotion
theory
Else-Quest
et al. (2012)
Fromson (2006)
Moral emotion
theory and
game theory
de Hooge
et al. (2007)
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey using
critical incident
technique; 98
undergraduate
students
Interview
methodology; 24
fifth-grade children
Meta-analysis of
22,665 articles
Experiment; 142
undergraduate
students
Study 3:
Experiment; 163
undergraduate
students
Study 4: Scenariobased experiment;
150 undergraduate
students
Recounting selfdiscrepancy
conditions (IV)
Norm violation
-Moral
transgression (IV)
-Social
blunder (IV)
Gender (IV)
Ethnicity (IV)
Age (IV)
Measure scale
type (IV)
Domain of
emotion (IV)
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
(Continues)
Guilt
Shame
Guilt
Shame
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
Cooperation
Cooperation
tendency
Guilt
Shame
Authentic pride
Hubristic pride
Embarrassment
Prosocial or
proself
orientation (Z)
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
Authentic pride (DV)
Hubristic pride (DV)
Embarrassment (DV)
Guilt (IV)
Shame (IV)
THE MORAL SELF
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DOI: 10.1002/job
Moral emotion
theory; theories of
the self (e.g.,
need to belong,
self-concept)
Moral emotion
theory
Moral emotions
theory
Moral emotion
theory, deterrence
theory, and theory
of social systems
Moral emotion
theory and
psychopathy
theory
Ghatavi et al.
(2002)
Giner-Sorolla
and Espinosa
(2011)
Grasmick et al.
(1993)
Holmqvist
(2008)
Theory used
Gausel
et al. (2012)
Study
Table 4. (Continued)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Interview
methodology,
coding responses;
47 young criminal
offenders, treated
Time-lagged
(collected in 1982
and 1990), singlesource survey; 330
adults from annual
survey of adults
from Department
of Sociology at the
University of
Oklahoma
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 86
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 56
outpatients with
either a current or
past major
depressive episode
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 379
participants
Research design
Psychopathy (IV)
Shame
(DV)
Shame associated
drunk
driving (IV)
State guilt (DV)
Trait guilt (DV)
Anger (IV)
Disgust (IV)
(IV)
State guilt (DV)
Trait guilt (DV)
Moral
standards (DV)
State shame (DV)
State guilt (DV)
State pride (DV)
Shame
Moral self
variable(s)
Current
depression (IV)
Past
depression (IV)
Appraisal
-Concern for
condemnation
of in-group (IV)
-In-group
defect (IV)
In-group
identification (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Joy (IV)
Sadness (IV)
Anger (IV)
Fright (IV)
Past selfreported drunk
driving (IV)
Felt rejection (IV)
Felt
inferiority (IV)
Contribution to
victims (M)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Shame of
criminal behavior
Self-reported
drunk driving
State guilt
Trait guilt
State guilt
Trait guilt
Moral standards
State shame
State guilt
State pride
Shame
Withdrawal
Prosocial
restitution
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
S136
P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of
socialization, the
self, and selfdevelopment
Kochanska,
Gross, Lin, and
Nichols (2002)
Moral emotion
theory and
principles of
forgiveness
Moral emotion
theory and
principles of
cultural
differences
Kim and
Johnson (2013)
Konstam
et al. (2001)
Psychological
theory related
to emotion
Hong and Chiu
(1992)
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey, using
critical incident or
recall technique;
148 graduate
students
Time-lagged,
multi-source
surveys/
interviews (coded
observations); 112
mothers with their
newborn children
(recruited via an ad
in the community)
Cross-sectional,
single source
scenario-based
survey; 355
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 321
undergraduate
students
by institutions
managed by the
National Board of
Institutional Care
Power-assertive
mother parenting
style (IV)
Violating moral
norm (IV)
Personal
inadequacy (IV)
Presence of
others (IV)
Personal
responsibility for
violation (IV)
Guilt (IV)
Shame (IV)
Pride (IV)
Moral self
Guilt (IV)
(DV)
Anger (IV)
Empathy (IV)
Perspectivetaking (IV)
Detachment
process (IV)
Gender (Z)
(Continues)
Forgiveness
Development
of the self
Rule violation
Purchase
intention for a
social-cause
product
Pride (IV)
Guilt (IV)
Anger (IV)
Empathy (IV)
Elevation (IV)
National
origin (Z)
Independent selfconstrual (Z)
Interdependent
self-construal (Z)
Guilt
Shame
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
THE MORAL SELF
S137
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Theories of
moral emotion
and moral
development
McDaniel et al.
(2010)
Moral emotion
theory
Theories of moral
emotion, emotion
regulation,
and moral
development
Laible, Eye, and
Carlo (2008)
Moll et al.
(2011)
Moral emotions
theory and
principles of
moral self
Theory used
Krettenauer and
Johnston (2011)
Study
Table 4. (Continued)
Clinical
observations and
functional
magnetic
resonance imaging
design, integrating
a moral sentiment
task; 33 patients
referred to by
specialists in
a larger
observational study
at the clinical
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 258
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single source,
scenario-based
survey; 113
adolescents (ages
14–18 years) from
two public high
schools
Cross-sectional,
single source,
scenario-based
survey; 155
teenagers, grades 7
through 11, with a
sample of 50
undergraduate
students
Research design
Damage to
frontopolar
cortext and
spectal area
(IV)
Prosocial moral
emotion (e.g.,
guilt, pity,
embarrassment)
(DV)
Prosocial moral
emotion (e.g.,
guilt, pity, and
embarrassment)
Guilt
Shame
Empathy
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
Spirituality (IV)
Family
interactions (IV)
Emotion
regulation (IV)
Empathy (IV)
Anger (IV)
Prosocial
behavior
Moral conduct
Context type
-Prosocial
action (IV)
-Temptation (IV)
-Antisocial (IV)
Guilt (IV)
Shame (IV)
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
Parenting
style (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Guilt
Pride
Other emotions
(embarrassment,
fear, sadness,
happiness, anger,
satisfaction)
Emotion
Moral self
variable(s)
Guilt (DV)
Pride (DV)
Self-importance
of moral
values (Z)
Antecedents of
the moral self
S138
P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Principles of
spirituality
and sexuality
Moral emotions
theory
Moral emotions
theory
Psychoanalytic
theory
Murray et al.
(2007)
Olthof et al.
(2004)
Roos et al.
(2011)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Rothschild
et al. (2012)
Study 1: Scenariobased experiment;
114 undergraduate
students
Study 2: Not
applicable to
review
Study 3: Scenariobased experiment;
64 undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 384 fourthand fifth-grade
students
Interview-based
scenarios; 206
children from 3
elementary and 2
secondary schools
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 176
undergraduate and
graduate students
center of the
National Institutes
of Health
intramural program
Scapegoating
Environmental
advocacy
Guilt (IV)
(Continues)
Guilt
Shame
Pride
Anger
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
Pride (DV)
Gender (IV)
Aggression level
toward peers (IV)
Peer witness (IV)
Victim
disposition (sad,
angry or
neutral) (IV)
Personal
control (IV)
Guilt
Shame
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
Emotion-evoking
event (action
vs. identity
threat) (IV)
Threat type
Value threat (IV)
Control
threat (IV)
No threat (IV)
Viable
scapegoating
target
available (IV)
Non-viable
scapegoating
target
available (IV)
High risk sex
Sex after alcohol
consumption
Sex with multiple
partners
Guilt (IV)
Shame (IV)
Sexual
attitude (IV)
Spirituality (IV)
Sense of
alienation from
God (IV)
THE MORAL SELF
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DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Moral emotion
theory
Stuewig
et al. (2009)
Moral emotion
theory
Moral emotions
theory
Stuewig et al.
(2010)
Tangney (1991)
Control systems
approach of
identity theory
Theory used
Stets and Carter
(2012)
Study
Table 4. (Continued)
Study 1: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 101
undergraduate
students
Study 2: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 97
undergraduate
students
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 368
pre- and post-trail
inmates held in
1000-bed
metropolitan area
county jail
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; Sample 1:
250 undergraduate
students; Sample 2:
234 early
adolescents;
Sample 3: 507
pre- and post-trial
inmates held in a
metropolitan area
county jail; Sample
4: 250 at-risk youth
in middle
adolescence
Time-lagged,
single-source
survey; 369
undergraduate
students
Research design
(IV)
Cognitive
empathy (IV)
Empathy
Moral
meanings (IV)
Feelings rule (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
(IV)
Shame (IV)
Guilt
Symptoms of
alcohol
dependence (IV)
Externalization
of blame (M)
Empathetic
concern (M)
Guilt (IV)
Shame (IV)
Guilt
proneness (IV)
Shame
proneness (IV)
Moral identity
discrepancy (M)
Moral
behavior (M)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Moral identity
-Internalization (IV)
-Symbolization (IV)
Guilt (DV)
Shame (DV)
Moral self
variable(s)
HIV status
Risky needle use
Risky sexual
behavior
Aggression
Guilt
Shame
Outcome
variables of the
moral self
S140
P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
J. Organiz. Behav. 36, S104–S168 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Moral emotions
theory
Cross-sectional,
single source,
critical incident
recall survey; 182
undergraduate
students
Affective cue
discrimination (IV)
Perspective
taking (IV)
Fantasy (IV)
Personal
distress (IV)
Externalization (IV)
Detachment (IV)
(IV)
Emotional
responsiveness
Guilt (IV)
Shame (IV)
Embarrassment (IV)
Affective
emotional
reactions
Self-report
perceptions
Social context
perceptions
Note: Moral self variables that also represent dependent variables in the studies are indicated with the DV designation and are repeated in the “dependent variable” column.
IV = independent variable; DV = dependent variable; M = mediator variable; Z = moderator variable.
Tangney
et al. (1996)
Study 3: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 213
undergraduate
students
Study 4: Crosssectional, singlesource survey; 241
undergraduate
students
THE MORAL SELF
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Ethical
leadership (IV)
Transformational
leadership (IV)
Study 1/Sample
1a: Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
2937 active duty
soldiers in the
U.S. Army
Study 1/Sample 1b:
Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
2937 active duty
soldiers in the
U.S. Army
Study 1/Sample 2:
Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
4043 U.S. Army
National Guard and
3383 U.S. Army
Reservists
Principles of moral
philosophy, virtue
ethics, deonance,
and reactance
Hannah, Jennings,
Bluhm, Peng, and
Schaubroeck
(2013)
(IV)
Authentic
leadership
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 162
soldiers attending
a training program
at a major U.S.
Army school
Social-cognitive
theory and principles
of authentic
leadership
Hannah, Avolio,
and Walumbwa
(2011)
Cross-sectional,
multi-source survey;
2572 U.S. Army
soldiers assigned to
295 squads with
approximately 9
soldiers per squad
Research design
Theories of the self
and self-regulation,
and principles of
moral judgment
and potency
Theory used
Antecedents of
the moral self
Hannah and
Avolio (2010)
Study
Table 5.
5. Empirical
Empirical work
work on
on moral
moral strength.
strength.
Table
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Duty orientation
(M)
Displays of moral
courage (M)
Moral potency
-Moral courage (IV)
-Moral efficacy (IV)
-Moral ownership (IV)
Moral self
variable(s)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Organizational
deviance
Ethical behavior
Ethical behavior
Prosocial behavior
Adherence to
Army values
Intention to
report others’
unethical acts
Tolerance for
mistreatment
of others
Tolerance for
torture
Confronting
wrongdoers
Outcome
variables of
the moral self
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Jackson
et al. (2008)
Hannah et al.
(2013)
Principles of
cultural differences
Social-cognitive
theory and principles
of moral agency
Cross-sectional,
single-source survey;
602 public school
youths
Cross-sectional,
multi-source survey;
1582 U.S. Army
soldiers assigned to
243 squads; only
squads with at
least 4 members
were included
in analyses
Study 2/Sample 3:
Cross-sectional,
single-source
survey; 2953 civilian
(non-military) federal
employees of U.S.
government
Study 3/Sample 4:
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 229
full-time employees,
recruited through
Empanel survey
service
Study 4/Sample 6:
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 376
soldiers assigned to
U.S. Army Division
in NE U.S.A.
Study 5/Sample 5:
Time-lagged, singlesource survey; 218
soldier trainees from
U.S. Army
Country (China vs.
U.S.A.) (IV)
Abusive
supervision (IV)
Work unit abusive
supervision (IV)
Moral attitude
Moral courage
(M)
Gender
(IV)
Identification
with organizational
values (M)
(Continues)
Acceptability
of moral online
behavior
Mistreatment of
non-combatants
Intention to
report others’
unethical acts
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Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Study 1: Experiment;
254 undergraduate
students
Study 2: Scenariobased experiment;
120 undergraduate
students
Social information
processing and
social-cognitive
theory
Principles of moral
conviction or
mandates and attitude
strength theory
Narvaez et al.
(2006)
Skitka
et al. (2005)
Moral
inference (IV)
Meta-ethical stance/
judgment (IV)
Antecedents of
the moral self
Moral conviction
Moral chronicity
(IV)
(IV)
Confidence in moral
judgment (DV)
Moral self
variable(s)
Source type
(friend vs. distant
relationship) (Z)
Processing style (Z)
Decision probe (Z)
Self-attributed moral
emotions (IV)
Other variables
studied on
outcomes
Social distance
from attitudinally
dissimilar other
Physical distance
from attitudinally
dissimilar other
Intolerance of
dissimilar other
Recall about
ethical behavior
Time to make
inference of
behavior
Confidence in
moral judgment
Delinquent
behavior
Outcome
variables of
the moral self
Note: Moral self variables that also represent dependent variables in the studies are indicated with the DV designation and are repeated in the “dependent variable” column.
IV = independent variable; DV = dependent variable; M = mediator variable; Z = moderator variable.
Study 1: Cross-sectional, single-source,
scenario-based experiment; 91 individuals
who were recruited
from public places
(e.g., airport, bus
terminal, and
Amtrak station)
Study 2: Crosssectional, singlesource, scenariobased experiment; 82
individuals who were
recruited from public
places (e.g., airport,
bus terminal, and
Amtrak station)
Study 3: Experiment;
80 undergraduate
students
Semi-structured
interviews presenting
participants with
vignettes; 200
adolescents
Research design
Principles of moral
emotion and child
development
Theory used
Krettenauer and
Eichler (2006)
Study
Table 5. (Continued)
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dispositional traits do.1 For example, Eastern cultures and cultural characteristics (e.g., power distance and uncertainty avoidance) more strongly influence moral self constructs (e.g., ethical ideology, Singhapakdi, Marta, Rao,
& Cicic, 2001; moral attitudes, Jackson et al., 2008; moral sensitivity, Blodgett, Lu, Rose, & Vitell, 2001) than
Western cultures and cultural characteristics (e.g., individualism/masculinity). A review of the influence of
individual differences on the moral self suggests that individual differences have implications for behavioral ethics
in multi-cultural workplaces, especially given widespread globalization and increasingly frequent interactions
between organizations’ members across cultures.
Gender has also been widely studied. Socialization principles suggest that women should be more concerned with
others and so they are generally stereotyped as having stronger moral qualities than men. Some research supports
these ideas, showing that women are more ethically sensitive than men (Ameen, Guffey, & McMillan, 1996;
Ozdogan & Eser, 2007) and experience guilt and shame more so than men, who are more likely to experience pride
(Roos, Salmivalli, & Hodges, 2011). However, a meta-analysis (Else-Quest, Higgins, Allison, & Morton, 2012)
demonstrated that such stereotypes lack robustness in terms of self-conscious moral emotions. Results revealed
small gender differences for guilt and shame, yet gender similarities for embarrassment, authentic pride, and hubristic pride. This meta-analysis also revealed that gender differences depend on ethnicity (stronger gender effects for
White samples), the type of measure used (stronger gender effects for trait versus state scales, rather than measures
based on situations or scenarios), and the domain of the emotion (e.g., body, sex, and food). Thus, results suggest
that the influence of gender on the moral self is nuanced.
Further, studies have shown that an actor’s past behavior and experienced emotions more strongly influence the
“doing” side than the “having” side of the moral self. For instance, moral inferences strengthen moral chronicity
(Narvaez et al., 2006). Further, Pratt, Hunsberger, Pancer, and Alisat (2003) found that community involvement
enhances individuals’ moral self-ideals (a moral centrality concept). However, our review of research examining
moral identity highlighted differences in effects. For instance, Jordan, Mullen, and Murnighan (2011) found that
recalling past moral acts positively influenced individuals’ symbolization moral identity (i.e., the “doing” side)
and recalling past immoral acts negatively influenced symbolization moral identity; however, the results suggest
recalling either past moral or immoral acts does not influence internalization moral identity (i.e., the “having” side).
Jordan et al. (2011) concluded that their work demonstrates the compensatory nature of past (im)moral behavior.
Because symbolization represents the “doing” side of the moral self, these findings suggest that individuals seek
to maintain consistent self-images with their past behavior. Specifically, moral recollections strengthen the moral
self, whereas immoral recollections engender a stronger sense of incompleteness, which increases moral strivings.
These findings imply that organizational socialization programs and cultures that promote ethical behaviors early
in members’ tenure might influence self-consistency motives and moral striving.
Research has found that self-conscious moral emotions—another active, “doing” aspect of the moral self—are also
strongly influenced by behavior. Unethical actions (I did something bad) have been shown to invoke guilt, but acts that
reflect poorly on one’s identity (I am bad) invoke shame (e.g., Ferguson, Stegge, & Damhuis, 1991; Fromson, 2006;
Hong & Chiu, 1992; Olthof, Ferguson, Bloemers, & Deij, 2004; Rothschild, Landau, Sullivan, & Keefer, 2012; Stets
& Carter, 2012; Tangney, 1991). Further, prosocial acts following a moral transgression have been found to invoke
pride but not guilt (Krettenauer & Johnston, 2011), and in considering moral norm violations, anger invokes guilt
whereas disgust invokes shame (Giner-Sorolla & Espinosa, 2011). Research has shown a similar pattern in groups:
an appraisal of the in-group as holding a moral defect predicts felt shame (Gausel, Leach, Vignoles, & Brown, 2012).
Differences in the “having” and “doing” side of the moral self have also emerged on the influence of religiosity, the
degree to which an individual actively adheres to a religion (Allport & Ross, 1967). Religiosity as a general trait has
been found to influence moral self “having” constructs (i.e., moral centrality, Kurpis, Beqiri, & Helgeson, 2008; moral
sensitivity, Morton et al., 2006) and “doing” constructs (guilt, McDaniel, Grice, & Eason, 2010; Murray, Ciarrocchi, &
1
We recognize that culture is generally considered a social context that influences individuals’ behavioral tendencies. However, we address these
specific studies within the set of antecedents that focus on individual characteristics because they specifically examine personality traits associated
with cultural differences (e.g., power distance and individualism).
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P. L. JENNINGS ET AL.
Murray-Swank, 2007; shame, Murray et al., 2007). However, when more active versus passive religiosity concepts are
examined, differences emerge. For instance, religious commitment, but not religious involvement, has been shown to
positively influence internalization moral identity (Hardy, Walker, Rackham, & Olsen, 2012). Further, Vitell et al.
(2009) examined intrinsic religiosity (inherent goals of the person’s religious tradition) and extrinsic religiosity (utilitarian motivations underlying the person’s religious behavior). They found that intrinsic religiosity positively influenced
both dimensions of moral identity, whereas extrinsic religiosity negatively influenced only internalization. They also
found that self-control did not mediate the effects on internalization but fully mediated the negative effects of extrinsic
religiosity on moral identity symbolization. They concluded that extrinsic religiosity depletes one’s self-control, which
explains its negative influence on symbolic moral action. As approximately 84 percent of the world’s population and,
therefore, labor pool formally identifies with a religion (PewResearch, 2012), organizational researchers should further
investigate the differential effects of religiosity on the moral self.
A last category of antecedents involves individuals’ mental health, which has been shown to influence the “doing”
side of the moral self. For instance, Ghatavi, Nicolson, MacDonald, Osher, and Levitt (2002) found that individuals
who were highly depressed experienced more enduring emotions of guilt and shame, and lower levels of pride. They
also found that trait guilt was not influenced by depression. Work in this area has yet to investigate whether and how
mental impairments influence how individuals define themselves morally (the “having” side).
Social factors
Some work in social psychology has focused on various non-work social influences of the moral self (e.g., parents,
Hardy, Bhattacharjee, Reed, & Aquino, 2010; socialization, Pratt et al., 2003; college coursework, Ozdogan & Eser,
2007), but limited research attention has been given to organizational antecedents. This work has highlighted the influence of organizational context on both the “having” and “doing” sides of the moral self. For example, research has
shown that perceptions of ethical culture positively influence employees’ moral efficacy (Schaubroeck, Hannah,
et al., 2012) and that employees who experience ethics-oriented socialization are more ethically sensitive (Sparks &
Hunt, 1998). Organizational structure has also been shown to influence ethical predispositions (Schminke, 2001). In particular, more mechanistic and rigid structures, rather than organic and flatter structures, positively influence employees’
level of formalism and utilitarianism. Similarly, employees within public rather than private organizations have been
found to hold stronger moral self-images (Van der Wal & de Graaf, 2006). Further, Kouchaki (2011) found that knowledge about past non-prejudicial hiring actions made by other members of an individual’s group enhanced individuals’
internalization moral identity, which then gave them moral license to act immorally in future hiring actions.
Finally, leaders are a strong influence. Studies have shown that positive and ethical leader behaviors strengthen
different aspects of employees’ moral self, whereas negative and unethical leader behaviors weaken employees’
moral self. For example, the literature suggests that leaders’ initiating and consideration styles strengthen followers’
utilitarianism and formalism tendencies (Schminke & Wells, 1999), authentic leadership positively influences
followers’ moral courage (Hannah, Avolio, & Walumbwa, 2011), ethical and transformational leadership positively
influences followers’ duty orientation (Hannah, Jennings, et al., 2013), ethical leadership increases followers’ moral
efficacy (Schaubroeck, Hannah, et al., 2012), and transformational and transactional leadership positively influences
internalization moral identity, with transformational leadership having a stronger influence (Weichun, Riggio,
Avolio, & Sosik, 2011). Conversely, abusive leader behavior has been shown to deplete followers’ moral courage
and their internalization of organizational values (Hannah, Schaubroeck et al., 2013).
Summary of the antecedents to the moral self
Research supports the premise that individual and social factors influence and shape the moral self. The findings
reviewed show that ethical aspects of the social context, social role models, and behavioral norms strengthen both the
“having” and “doing” sides of the moral self. However, we found a distinct pattern in the literature associated with
the influence of individual characteristics. When characteristics involve how individuals define themselves (e.g., gender,
cultural background, and culture), such factors influence the “having” side of the moral self (i.e., internalized aspects of
moral centrality, moral judgment disposition, and self-conscious moral orientation) and more weakly influence the
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“doing” side of the moral self (i.e., self-conscious moral emotions). In contrast, individuals’ engaged behavior, emotions, active experiences, and context more strongly influence the “doing” side of the moral self (i.e., symbolization
moral identity, self-conscious moral emotions, and moral strength). Thus, the findings align with moral self theory
(Aquino & Freeman, 2009; Bandura, 1991; Harter, 1999). The construction of the “having” side of the moral self seems
to be more strongly influenced by self-defining characteristics and through social interactions. The construction of the
“doing” side of the moral self is also influenced by social interactions but seems to be more strongly influenced by
self-relevant cognitions and evaluations in terms of agentic experiences.
At first glance, our review suggests that the “doing” side of the moral self is more malleable to organizations, in
that organizational decision makers can create contexts (e.g., structures, climate, and leader or coworker role
models) that can influence and strengthen employees’ moral self. However, we believe that it is important to highlight other work on individuals’ traits, such as the Protestant Work Ethic (see Furnham, 1984, for a review) and
spirituality (see Karakas, 2010, for a recent review), which suggest that such traits, especially those linking Protestant Work Ethic and religiosity to work, highly influence organizational outcomes. Further, it may also be that
different aspects of organizational life indirectly influence the moral self through specific characteristics of an
individual. For instance, Ghatavi et al. (2002) demonstrated that depression made it less likely for individuals to
experience moral emotions—emotions needed to stimulate more ethical choices and behavior when facing ethical
dilemmas. These findings, along with the general literature on mental health and work (see Warr, 2007, for a
review), suggest that organizations can influence employees’ mental health (e.g., depression) by way of workplace
stressors. Such findings suggest that a more refined understanding is needed of how organizations influence the
various individual characteristics that impair or facilitate the self-regulatory functioning of the moral self.
We note, however, that our conclusions concerning the antecedents of the moral self should be considered in light
of the fact that the studies we review hold a static and variable-centric approach to examining the moral self. That is,
studies have not examined how the “having” and “doing” side of the moral self influence each other or whether they
hold reciprocal effects. Such a dynamic approach is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms and
processes associated with the construction and functioning of the moral self.
Consequences of the moral self
Research exploring the consequences of the moral self has integrated moral self theory (e.g., Aquino & Reed, 2002;
Blasi, 1984) with principles about social identity (e.g., Tajfel & Turner, 1979), self-regulation, and social cognition
(e.g., Bandura, 1991, 1999). The general premise of these theories is that individuals seek to maintain consistency
with their moral self-concepts and, thus, are motivated to align their behavior in various situations with the principles
of morality they hold. We review work on three categories of consequences: (i) decision making and motivational
states, (ii) behavioral intentions and behavior, and (iii) emotions.
Decision making and motivational states
Research on decision making and motivational states explains how the moral self inspires an individual to be a moral
person. One general finding is that the moral self heightens the salience of moral principles and ethical characteristics of a situation. For example, research has found that reflective moral attentiveness, moral awareness, idealism,
and moral identity (both internalization and symbolization) enhance moral sensitivity (Daniels, Diddams, & Van
Duzer, 2011; Reynolds, 2008; Sparks & Hunt, 1998) and attention to moral issues (Reynolds, 2008). Further, studies
have shown that moral sensitivity positively relates to moral stress (Lützén, Blom, Ewalds-Kvist, & Winch, 2010).
Although one study failed to find a significant influence of the moral self (i.e., ethical ideology, Yetmar &
Eastman, 2000) on ethical decision making, most studies have. For instance, internalization moral identity has been
found to positively influence deontological and utilitarian moral judgments (Conway & Gawronski, 2013) and
ethical beliefs (McFerran, Aquino, & Duffy, 2010). Further, research has found that moral judgment disposition
(measured in various ways; Brady & Wheeler, 1996; Fisher, Woodbine, & Fullerton, 2003; Forsyth, 1980, 1985;
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McFerran et al., 2010; Schminke, 1997) and moral sensitivity (Morton et al., 2006) positively relate to moral reasoning and ethical judgments.
Studies have shown that moral self constructs also influence motivational states. For instance, moral attentiveness
is positively related to moral imagination, particularly for employees who are more creative (Whitaker & Godwin,
2013). Research on moral judgment dispositions has shown that, compared with idealists, relativists (given their
focus on aspects of the situation and rejection of moral absolutes) are more goal-oriented (Luzadis & Gerhardt,
2011). Studies on moral communion have shown that individuals holding both communion and agency, given this
balance of both an “other” and “self” focus, are more likely to construe critical life events redemptively, are more
frequently identified as helpers, and report more secure attachments (Frimer, Walker, Dunlop, Lee, & Riches,
2011; Walker & Frimer, 2007; Walker, Frimer, & Dunlop, 2010). Last, research on self-conscious moral emotions
(Tangney, Miller, Flicker, & Barlow, 1996) has shown that experienced shame heightens a sense of isolation and
inferiority, motivating individuals to hide and be less motivated to admit wrongdoing, whereas experienced guilt
and shame enhance responsibility and regret for moral transgressions.
Further, studies have found that moral centrality influences how individuals perceive and accept others. Moral
centrality heightens individuals’ concern for others (Doron, Sar-El, & Mikulincer, 2012; Hardy et al., 2010), makes
individuals more effective at socializing (Kochanska, Koenig, Barry, Kim, & Yoon, 2010), and decreases social
dominance orientation (Hardy et al., 2010). Similarly, Reed and Aquino (2003) found that internalization moral
identity (but not symbolization) increases individuals’ moral regard for and willingness to exchange resources with,
and donate to, out-group members, and that it lessens desires to wish harm to out-group members. Last, research has
shown that moral centrality impairs antisocial attitudes and enhances prosocial attitudes (Lee, Whitehead,
Ntoumanis, & Hatzigeorgiadis, 2008; Sage, Kavussanu, & Duda, 2006).
Behaviors and behavioral intentions
Moral self theory suggests that individuals with a strong moral self are more inclined to act ethically and refrain from
unethical behavior. Yet, consistent support for this premise has only been found with constructs associated with the
“having” side of the moral self (i.e., commitment to moral self, internalization moral identity, moral values, moral
judgment dispositions, and perceptual moral attentiveness).
For instance, although only a small number of studies have examined the influence of moral self constructs using data
from working adults (i.e., Brebels, De Cremer, Van Dijke, & Van Hiel, 2011; Hannah & Avolio, 2010; Hannah, Avolio,
& Walumbwa, 2011; Hannah, Jennings, et al., 2013; Hannah, Schaubroeck, et al., 2013; Mayer, Aquino, Greenbaum, &
Kuenzi, 2012; Reynolds, 2008; Reynolds & Ceranic, 2007; McFerran et al., 2010; Vitell, Keith, & Mathur, 2011), by
and large, empirical findings have shown that “having” moral self constructs motivate ethical and prosocial intentions
and behavior. In particular, research has found that “having” moral self-concepts positively influence cooperative
behavior (Sachdeva, Iliev, & Medin, 2009), discomfort with others being harmed (Kavussanu, Willoughby, & Ring,
2012), donations and donation intentions (Aquino, McFerran, & Laven, 2011; Aquino & Reed, 2002; Conway & Peetz,
2012; Reed & Aquino, 2003; Sachdeva et al., 2009; Winterich, Mittal, & Ross, 2009), ethical behavior and intentions
(Aquino et al., 2011; Frimer & Walker, 2009; Gausel et al., 2012; Johnston & Krettenauer, 2011; Konstam, Chernoff, &
Deveney, 2001; Kurpis et al., 2008; Lu & Chang, 2011; Michaelidou & Hassan, 2008; Reynolds, 2008; Reynolds &
Ceranic, 2007; Rosenberg, 1987; Stets & Carter, 2012; Stuewig, Tangney, Heigel, Harty, & McCloskey, 2010; Stuewig,
Tangney, Mashek, Forkner, & Dearing, 2009), organizational citizenship behavior (McFerran et al., 2010), and
volunteerism (Aquino & Reed, 2002). However, “having” moral self constructs have been found to negatively influence
unethical and counterproductive intentions and behavior, such as aggression (Hardy et al., 2012; Rancer, Kosberg, &
Silvestri, 1992), antisocial behavior (Barriga, Morrison, Liau, & Gibbs, 2001; Johnston & Krettenauer, 2011),
dangerous driving (Rosenbloom, Ben-Eliyahu, & Nemrodov, 2009), retaliation (Rupp & Bell, 2010), social dominance
behavior (Wilson, 2003), and intentions for and engagement in unethical behavior (Mayer et al., 2012; Perugini &
Leone, 2009; Sachdeva et al., 2009; Stets & Carter, 2011).
Less consistent empirical findings emerged for research investigating the influence of “doing” side moral self
constructs on behaviors and intentions. A relatively steady pattern of results demonstrated that self-conscious moral
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emotions (i.e., guilt and pride) and moral strength (i.e., moral chronicity and moral character) positively influence
ethical behavior and intentions (Cohen, 2010; De Hooge, Zeelenberg, & Breugelmans, 2007; Kim & Johnson,
2013; Narvaez et al., 2006) and negatively influence unethical and counterproductive behavior and intentions (e.g.,
self-reported drunk driving, Grasmick, Bursik, & Arneklev, 1993; scapegoating, Rothschild et al., 2012). Still,
researchers have found that the effects of self-conscious moral emotions are contingent on moderating and mediating
factors. For instance, Cohen, Wolf, Panter, and Insko (2011) examined measurement differences in guilt and shame
on the basis of negative self-evaluation (NSE) measures and action tendency measures. Both guilt measures were
highly correlated and negatively influenced unethical decision making. Both shame measures were positively related
to poor psychological functioning (e.g., neuroticism, personal distress, and low self-esteem), but they were weakly
correlated with one another, and effects on unethical decision making did not converge. Shame-NSE was negatively
related to unethical decision making, whereas shame-action tendency was not. Further, de Hooge, Breugelmans, and
Zeelenberg (2008) predicted and found that experiencing shame motivated prosocial behavior when that felt shame
was relevant for the decision at hand, whereas when shame was not relevant, the effects did not hold.
Regarding moral strength, Hannah and colleagues (Hannah & Avolio, 2010; Hannah et al., 2011; Hannah,
Schaubroeck, et al., 2013) found the effects of moral strength depend on leaders’ behavior. For instance, the effects
of moral potency (i.e., moral ownership, moral efficacy, and moral courage) on subjects’ adherence to organizational
values, intentions to report others’ (un)ethical acts, and tolerance for mistreating others depends on whether leaders
are engaged in ethical acts (Hannah & Avolio, 2010). Further, moral courage has been found to mediate the effects
of leader behaviors (authentic leadership, Hannah et al., 2011; abusive supervision, Hannah, Schaubroeck, et al.,
2013) on followers’ ethical and unethical behaviors. Research has also found that followers’ duty orientation
mediates the positive relationships between ethical and transformational leadership and ethical behavior, as well
as the negative relationships between ethical and transformational leadership and workplace deviance (Hannah,
Jennings, et al., 2013).
Differing effects on behaviors and intentions have appeared for moral identity, however, depending on how moral
identity is conceptualized and whether moderators and mediators are considered. For example, Reynolds and
Ceranic (2007) found that symbolization, but not internalization, influenced charitable giving. Other work has
revealed non-significant effects for symbolization on prosocial and ethical intentions and behavior (donations and
donation intentions, Aquino et al., 2011; Reed & Aquino, 2003; prosocial intentions, Aquino et al., 2011; organizational citizenship behavior, McFerran et al., 2010). Further, when internalization and symbolization were combined
into a moral identity composite, the effects did not influence ethical and prosocial behavior unless moderators were
considered (e.g., regulatory focus, Brebels et al., 2011; emotion-regulation knowledge, Côté, DeCelles, McCarthy,
Van Kleef, & Hideg, 2011). For instance, Reynolds and Ceranic (2007) found that internalization moral identity had
positive effects on moral behavior and decisions for individuals high in consequentialism or low in formalism, but
negative effects on moral behavior and decisions for individuals low in consequentialism or high in formalism.
Mayer et al. (2012) found that internalization (not symbolization) directly influenced unethical behavior and conflict,
whereas internalization and symbolization only marginally (p < .10) and indirectly (via the mediator, ethical leadership)
influenced those outcomes.
The moral (dis)engagement of behaviors and behavioral intentions. Within the research examining behavior and
behavioral intentions, some scholars have examined the relationship between the moral self and moral disengagement. Moral disengagement occurs when individuals use cognitive strategies to “disengage” from moral principles,
allowing unethical behavior to occur without self-sanction (Bandura, 1991, 1999). Empirical work has shown that
the “having” side of the moral self deters moral disengagement, whereas the “doing” side of the moral self can
enhance it. Specifically, internalization moral identity and moral judgment dispositions (i.e., idealism compared with
relativism) negatively influence moral disengagement (Aquino, Reed, Thau, & Freeman, 2007; Detert, Treviño, &
Sweitzer, 2008; McFerran et al., 2010). In addition, Detert et al. (2008) found that internalization indirectly and
negatively influenced unethical decision making, as mediated by moral disengagement propensity. However, Vitell
et al. (2011) found that whereas internalization lessened moral disengagement, symbolization made it more likely.
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Similarly, Skitka et al. (2005) found that moral conviction gave individuals’ license to act badly: individuals with a
strong moral conviction socially and physically distanced themselves from attitudinally dissimilar others and were
more intolerant of attitudinally dissimilar others in both intimate (e.g., friend) and distant relationships (e.g., owner
of a store that one frequents). They also found that strong moral convictions lessened individuals’ good will, cooperativeness, and ability to generate procedural solutions to resolve disagreements.
By contrast, Aquino, Freeman, Reed, Lim, and Felps (2009) examined the effects of internalization moral identity
on individuals’ moral “engagement.” Results showed that internalization moral identity positively influenced the
accessibility of individuals’ moral self-concepts, which was positively associated with ethical behavioral intentions
(i.e., charitable donations and contributions to public goods) and negatively influenced unethical behavioral
intentions (i.e., lying). Situational context also moderated the effects: Priming moral traits strengthened the effects,
whereas financial incentives for unethical acts weakened them.
Emotions
Only a handful of studies have examined the influence of moral self constructs on emotions. In general, this research
has shown that constructs centering on the “having” side of the moral self (i.e., self-importance of moral values,
internalization moral identity, and level of idealism) enhance individuals’ emotional intelligence (Angelidis &
Ibrahim, 2011) and increase the likelihood they will experience self-conscious moral emotions (e.g., guilt and pride,
Krettenauer & Johnston, 2011) and other-oriented moral emotions (e.g., empathy; Hardy et al., 2012). Other work,
however, has found more nuanced effects. For instance, Stets and Carter (2011, 2012) found that moral identity selfdiscrepancy (self-ratings of moral identity lower than manipulated ratings) provoked negative emotion (Stets &
Carter, 2011) and guilt and shame (Stets & Carter, 2012). Further, Aquino et al. (2011) found that high levels of
moral identity internalization (but not symbolization) strengthened the positive effects of acts of uncommon moral
goodness on moral elevation (a surge of emotions involving admiration and warmth), which in turn motivated
prosocial behavior.
Summary of the consequences of the moral self
Overall, researchers have demonstrated that the moral self exerts a significant influence on a variety of outcomes.
Individuals with a strong moral self are more attentive to and motivated to act and make decisions that are ethical.
Various moral self constructs also invoke a variety of emotional reactions and strengthen emotional intelligence.
Our review suggests that considering moderators and mediators can offer a richer understanding of the effects of
the moral self. The most notable differences were those between the “having” versus “doing” side of the moral
self, specifically for research using Aquino and Reed’s conceptualization and measure of moral identity. Using
this measure, internalization was positively and consistently related to ethical behaviors and intentions and consistently negatively related to unethical and counterproductive behaviors and intentions. Conversely, differences
emerged for symbolization moral identity. When internalization and symbolization were combined into a composite measure of moral identity, significant results did not emerge unless moderators were considered (e.g., regulatory focus, self-control, group norms, and ethical leadership). The review also highlights some dysfunctional
aspects of the “doing” side. That is, symbolization moral identity (Vitell et al., 2011) and moral conviction
(Skitka et al., 2005) may enable moral licensing, whereby individuals feel justified to behave unethically.
Our review also suggests measurement matters. “Having” side constructs hold a more consistent relationship
with attitudes, motives, behavior, and intentions. This makes sense, given the types of moral characteristics that
align with individuals’ self-conceptions, such as being a caring and compassionate person or someone who is idealistic or morally sensitive. Yet, the “doing” side should also be influential, particularly because this side of the
moral self involves agency. Of the research on the “doing” side reviewed, studies examining self-conscious moral
emotions and moral strength demonstrated that these constructs hold more consistent effects on consequences
than has moral identity symbolization. The review also shows that self-conscious moral emotions have a strong
influence on individuals’ attitudes, motives, and behaviors; however, the effects could be bounded by moderators.
Similarly, moral strength constructs also have a strong influence on attitudes, motives, and behaviors to achieve
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moral agency, with these effects influenced by moderating or mediating processes. Consistent results were also
found for moral strength constructs of moral potency and duty orientation on various ethical outcomes across multiple organizational field studies. This research suggests that these forms of moral strength exert strong influence
on behavior by bolstering the “doing” side of the moral self.
Primary differences and inconsistent results emerged when researchers examined the “doing” side of moral identity using Aquino and Reed’s (2002) symbolization moral identity measure. Emphasis on the use of this measure is
understandable, as it is the dominant moral identity model in the literature. The measure, however, asks whether
participants purchase products, wear clothes, and engage in activities characteristic of moral traits (e.g., being caring,
compassionate, and fair). These acts may not be the best representation of moral engagement, or they may represent
more superficial and less potent motives associated with moral self-presentation in organizations. Because more
consistent findings were found with self-conscious moral emotions and moral strength, these types of constructs
may have stronger motivational effects.
Last, it is important to note that although theoretical models emphasize the process dynamics of the moral self in
which the “having” side informs the “doing” side, research has yet to adequately explore these relationships. Indeed,
some studies we review suggest there may be recursive effects across the “having” and “doing” sides of the moral
self (e.g., Giner-Sorolla & Espinosa, 2011; Morton et al., 2006). We encourage researchers to examine the processes
by which self-defining moral orientations and dispositions affect (and, in turn, may be affected by) the cognitive and
affective self-regulatory capacities for moral action.
The moral self as a moderator variable
In general, research has shown that contexts that reinforce ethical behavior (e.g., ethical culture, Caldwell & Moberg,
2007; charitable giving by an organization; Reed, Aquino, & Levy, 2007; recognition of donation behavior, Winterich,
Mittal, & Aquino, 2013; priming moral context, Aquino et al., 2009; recognition of a focal actor’s prosocial behavior,
Winterich, Aquino, Mittal, & Swartz, 2013) generally influence ethical behavior, particularly for individuals with
greater moral centrality. Contexts that impair self-regulatory functioning or heighten self-interest fuel unethical behavior
(observed coworker unethical behavior, O’Fallon & Butterfield, 2011; power, DeCelles, DeRue, Margolis, & Ceranic,
2012; primed self-interest, Skarlicki & Rupp, 2010; mistreatment, Skarlicki, van Jaarsveld, & Walker, 2008), particularly for those with lower moral centrality. Additionally, Hannah and Avolio (2010) found that dimensions of moral
strength can reinforce one another: The positive effects of moral ownership on ethical behavior were further enhanced
for individuals with stronger moral courage; individuals high in both moral courage and moral ownership were more
likely to confront others for their unethical acts.
Last, research has shown that moral judgment dispositions hold a strong influence on individuals’ reactions to
various moral dilemmas. For example, Reynolds (2006) found that whereas both utilitarianism and formalism
increase moral awareness, formalists were more apt than utilitarians to recognize norm violations and harm
against others. Schminke, Ambrose, and Noel (1997) found that formalism made individuals more sensitive to
procedural justice issues (issues involving the fairness of decision-making processes) and utilitarianism made
individuals more sensitive to distributive justice issues (issues involving the fairness of decision outcomes).
Moreover, moral judgment disposition moderates the effects of organizational contexts on behaviors and intentions, although results are not always consistent. Although Marta et al. (2012) found that relativism strengthened
(and idealism weakened) the relationship between perceived corporate ethical values and workers’ ethical intentions, Ruiz-Palomino and Martinez-Cañas (2011) found relativism weakened (and idealism strengthened) the
effect of corporate formal ethical policies on employees’ ethical intentions, and they also found that the effect
of ethical leadership on employees’ ethical behavioral intentions was stronger for relativists. Last, Zhang and
Gowan (2012) found that high formalism strengthened the positive effects of both legal corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethical CSR activities on job applicant attraction, whereas utilitarianism weakened the effects
of economic CSR on job applicant attraction.
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Summary of research on the moral self as a moderator
Our review suggests that the moral self (i.e., moral centrality, moral judgment disposition, and moral strength) serves to
reinforce individuals’ ethical stance and enables them to react to different situations more effectively and ethically than
individuals with a weaker moral self. Those with a strong moral self are also better able to refrain from reacting
unethically and destructively across situations. Therefore, the findings show that the moral self motivates individuals
to maintain self-consistency, regardless of whether, or how, they define themselves in terms of moral attributions (the
“having” side of the moral self) or are motivated by agency (the “doing” side of the moral self).
Concluding thoughts on the empirical studies of the moral self
In general, research supports moral self theory by showing that factors critical to one’s self-definition shape how
morality becomes embedded into the self-concept and self-regulatory functioning, thereby engaging motivation
for self-consistency in moral notions. There were some notable trends, however, that emerged from our review.
For instance, we found that the literature largely reflects a variable-centric approach. Even though we attempted
to synthesize this body of work into an integrative model (Figure 1), an unfortunate consequence of the variable-centric approach is fragmented findings that are difficult to translate into a dynamic and holistic understanding of the structure and functioning of the moral self. Additionally, we observed that the majority of the studies
(about 70 percent) adopted Aquino and Reed’s (2002) conceptualization and measures of moral identity. This is
not surprising, given that this seminal work produced one of the first measures of the moral self. An over-reliance on
this conceptualization, however, neglects other aspects of the moral self. The moral content used in this measure
emphasizes nine Kantian-like moral traits (being a caring, compassionate, fair, friendly, generous, helpful, hardworking, honest, and kind person). This limited range of moral content may mask insights about the moral self,
particularly in contexts where other moral traits and content (e.g., honor, duty, and virtue) may be valued and important. A last noticeable trend is that the majority of the studies on the moral self have used samples other than full-time
working employees or those in organizations. Considering the negative consequences that (un)ethical behavior yields
to organizations (Treviño et al., 2006), clearly more work is needed using organization-based samples to examine
how organizational factors influence the moral self, as well as the implications of the moral self to behavioral ethics
in organizations. We elaborate on these trends and ideas below.
Emerging Opportunities and Future Directions for Moral Self Research
In this final section of our review, we highlight several emerging opportunities for future research on the moral self,
including: (i) the need for more applied research in organizational contexts; (ii) the need for clarity on the “having”
side of the moral self with regard to both its content and structure; (iii) the need for clarity on the “doing” side of the
moral self with regard to the underlying motivational and regulatory processes; and (iv) the need for a moral
integrative and holistic understanding of the moral self.
Opportunities for research in organizational contexts
Arguably, the most pressing need is for more applied research on the moral self within organizations and with data
from working adults. By and large, the majority of the studies conducted on the moral self use student samples or
scenario studies. The work conducted within organizations or using employee samples suggests that organizational
factors have a significant influence on employees’ moral self and that the moral self, in turn, significantly affects
organizationally relevant outcomes. To this end, much of Aquino and colleagues’ research (e.g., Aquino & Becker,
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2005; Hardy et al., 2010; Mayer et al., 2012; Reed et al., 2007; Winterich, Mittal et al., 2013) has focused on
identifying organizationally relevant situational factors that influence moral identity. Although predominately
conducted in laboratory settings, their research suggests that moral identity can be influenced by an array of
organizationally relevant factors (e.g., ethical climate, financial incentives, and recognition). Additionally, their
research highlights how organizations present employees with a variety of morally ambiguous situations that are
fraught with conflict between self and organizational interests. Much more research is needed to better understand
the relationship between organizational factors and the moral self.
To this point, some research has demonstrated that organizational factors may influence the moral self in unexpected
and, perhaps, detrimental ways. For instance, Schminke (2001) theorized that a strong work context (i.e., mechanistic
structure) would create little need for employees to rely on moral inclinations (their moral self), but he found the opposite. Other work has shown the “dark side” of the moral self, which suggests that some contexts may inhibit moral functioning and promote dysfunctional behaviors. For example, Skitka et al. (2005) and Vitell et al. (2011) found that a
strong moral self, specifically aspects of the “doing” side (moral strength and symbolization moral identity), promoted
a sense of superiority, causing intolerance of dissimilar others and impairing good will and cooperativeness. Thus, it is
possible that certain individuals (such as those who believe that they are morally superior or highly idealistic/absolutist)
may be inflexible to employees or contexts that oppose their philosophical orientations. These dynamics may also
explain why employees sabotage other units or organizational outsiders. More work is needed to shed light on how
aspects of organizations and relationships within it (viz. supervisors, coworkers, and customers) strengthen or weaken
employees’ moral self and make employees more or less apt to activate or rely on their moral self.
Research is also needed to determine the implications of the moral self for the benefit of organizations beyond ethical
outcomes. Of particular interest is the influence of the moral self on organizational functioning, behaviors, and
performance. In our empirical review, only one study assessed job performance as an outcome (Skarlicki et al.,
2008). However, this study did not examine the direct or indirect effects of the moral self on job performance;
performance was considered as a distal outcome. Further, although a variety of studies have examined general prosocial
acts, far less research examined prosocial work behavior, such as organizational citizenship behavior (see McFerran
et al., 2010, for an exception).
Last, we know relatively little about the effects of the moral self on collective processes or work outcomes (e.g.,
group-level performance and engagement; organization-level climate). As argued by Klein and Kozlowski (2000), it
is important to consider phenomena at different levels of analysis because “findings at one level of analysis do not
generalize neatly and exactly to other levels of analysis, except under very restrictive circumstances” (p. 213). To be
sure, very limited research attention has been given to aggregate level phenomena (e.g., Hannah, Schaubroeck, et al.,
2013) and its impact on and consequence to moral self constructs.
Emerging opportunities on the “having” side of the moral self
Our review highlights the need for clarity on the “having” side of the moral self with regard to its content and structure.
Specifically, researchers have relied on a narrow range of moral content (e.g., specific moral traits, values, principles,
ideals, and goals) and a limited dimensional structure (e.g., internalization and symbolization). This narrow focus
may obscure or fail to reveal differences in the construction and functioning of the moral self across individuals.
How does the content of the moral self vary and influence moral functioning?
Blasi (1984) emphasized that moral identities can vary in content. That is, moral notions (e.g., moral values, principles, and ideals) that constitute moral identity vary across individuals. Whereas one person may see being compassionate and helpful as central to his or her moral identity, another person may emphasize being fair and just, and yet
another being loyal, dutiful, and self-sacrificing. As our empirical review reveals, different moral judgment dispositions embody different moral content; ethical ideology assesses idealistic versus relativistic tendencies, whereas ethical predispositions assess utilitarian versus formalistic tendencies. Moreover, Aquino and Reed’s (2002) measures
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focus only on a handful of Kantian traits (e.g., caring, compassionate). Blasi’s arguments suggest that a broader
range of moral content should be considered in moral self research. In line with these ideas, Haidt (2008) described
a “great narrowing” in which the domain of morality has been reduced to a limited set of concerns related to harm
and fairness. He asked researchers to consider a broader range of moral concerns that would include group-focused
moralities related to loyalty and self-sacrifice, respect, and obedience to authority, as well as sanctity and physical
and spiritual wholesomeness. To Haidt’s point, some deontic traits, such as duty and loyalty, are not included in
Aquino and Reed’s measures but influence work motivation and behavior (Hannah, Jennings, et al., 2013; Shamir,
1991). Certainly, employees are likely driven by moral concerns other than those concerning fairness and justice.
As an alternative, Walker and colleagues (e.g., Walker & Hennig, 2004; Walker & Pitts, 1998) suggested that
different trait clusters represent different types of moral exemplars. They identified three distinct types of moral
exemplars based on their structure of moral traits: Brave exemplars are identified by a structure that includes
intrepid, confident, heroic–strong, dedicated, and self-sacrificial traits; care exemplars are identified by a structure
that includes loving–empathetic, altruistic, and honest–dependable traits; and just exemplars are identified by a
structure that includes honest, fair, principled, rational, and conscientious traits. Indeed, the self is highly complex
and includes more than traits, such as moral notions associated with social roles, autobiographical narratives, and
goal structures, that should be considered in future research on the moral self (Hill & Roberts, 2010; Lord, Hannah,
& Jennings, 2011). Such clusters may inform social learning and role modeling effects of leaders in organizations.
How does the structure of the moral self vary and influence moral functioning?
The structure of the moral self is more complex than the one or two dimensions reflected in the constructs we
reviewed. Two distinctions are discussed below to extend thinking on the dimensional structure of the moral self
beyond the current attention to internalization on the “having” side and symbolization on the “doing” side: (i)
the distinction between the I-self and Me-self and (ii) the distinction between global and domain-specific moral
self-concepts.
The I-self and Me-self distinction. William James (1892/2001) introduced an important distinction between the I-self
and Me-self, which has been overlooked in the moral self literature. The I-self refers to the mental presence of a
person’s sense of self (Harter, 1999). Constructs associated with the I-self are as follows: (i) self-awareness (the
appreciation for internal states, needs, thoughts, and emotions); (ii) self-agency (the sense of authorship over one’s
thoughts and actions); (iii) self-continuity (the sense of remaining the same person over time); and (iv) self-coherence
(a stable sense of the self as a single, coherent, bounded entity) (Harter, 1999). The Me-self refers to perceptions,
thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of oneself (Harter, 1999). Constructs associated with the Me-self are as follows: (i)
self-knowledge (the beliefs of one’s self); (ii) self-concepts, self-identities, and self-schemas (conceptualizations of
one’s self); and (iii) self-evaluations (judgments about one’s value or worth as a person; e.g., self-esteem, self-worth,
and self-efficacy; Baumeister, 1998).
Our review shows that scholars have devoted attention to the Me-self, specifically self-concepts and identities,
such as Aquino and Reed’s (2002) model. Yet, aspects of the I-self have important implications for moral functioning. Blasi (1993) emphasized that people vary in both the degree to which moral notions are central to their
self-concept (Me-self) and the degree to which they experience morality within their subjective sense of self (I-self).
A recent study on virtues and character strengths found the I-self to be central to moral strength (Peterson &
Seligman, 2004). This subjective I-self experience entails (i) a sense of authenticity (“this is the real me”); (ii) a desire to act with character strength; (iii) a feeling of excitement and invigoration as opposed to exhaustion when using
the strength; and (iv) positive self-feelings (e.g., subjective well-being, acceptance of oneself, and reverence for life).
These subjective I-self experiences are thought to not only be associated with the “doing” side of the moral self (i.e.,
moral strength) but are also intrinsic to, and a constituent of, the “having” side of the moral self. For instance, they
may be an important experiential aspect of moral centrality—that is, how the experience of morality becomes central
to one’s self-understanding.
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Further, aspects of the I-self hold promise for understanding the construction and development of the moral self.
For example, developed capabilities in the I-self (e.g., self-awareness) directly influence the structure and content of
the Me-self (e.g., self-knowledge) at any given developmental level (Harter, 1999). Thus, I-self processes and
changes are critical to how and why the content and structure of the Me-self changes. Contemporary developmental
psychologists have, therefore, embraced I-self and Me-self distinctions as a framework for understanding these
reciprocal influences (Harter, 1999). To better understand the construction and functioning of the moral self,
attention should be given to the I-self and its reciprocal and dynamic relationships with the Me-self.
Global versus domain-specific moral self. Considering how the content and structure of the moral self vary across
domains may also prove useful. Much of the work in our review focuses on the global nature of the moral self. This
approach assumes the following: (i) individuals possess a unified moral self that is distinct from other aspects of the
self and (ii) the moral self can be more or less central to one’s overall sense of self and identity (Aquino et al., 2009).
Although this unified approach is thought to be a defining characteristic of selfhood and moral selfhood (Baumeister,
1998), it neglects how the content and structure of the moral self may change across domains, such as the multiple
social roles a given individual may take on that are both within and external to his or her organization. To be sure,
we reviewed research that showed that context influences the moral self, highlighting the possibility for the moral
self to be influenced by domain-specific or situation-specific content and structure across social roles.
Along these lines, Hannah et al. (2011) proposed a self-complexity approach (e.g., Linville, 1987; Woolfolk, Gara,
Allen, & Beaver, 2004) to moral identity, suggesting sub-identities compose moral identity. These sub-identities are
based on social roles, such as parent or manager, and are developed as people perform these roles over time (Markus
& Wurf, 1987). Thus, sub-identities may consist of different forms of moral content. For example, Woolfolk et al.
(2004) showed that ethics-related attributes (being honest, selfish, scornful, admirable, bad, dependable, and dishonest) were represented to a greater or lesser extent across individuals’ various sub-identities. Emerging research also
shows that individuals’ preferences, values, and ethical judgments and behaviors change when separate sub-identities
are primed (LeBoeuf, Shafir, & Bayuk, 2010), including professional identities (Leavitt, Reynolds, Barnes,
Schilpzand, & Hannah, 2012). Although the moral self may possess a certain global unity, it is also likely to be highly
differentiated across domains (Markus & Wurf, 1987). A self-complexity approach to theorizing and operationalizing
moral identity may help explain why moral thought and behavior varies across situations, because of variance in
which aspects of the moral self are activated in each situation (Hardy & Carlo, 2005).
Emerging opportunities on the “doing” side of the moral self
Our review also highlights the need for additional research to add clarity on the “doing” side of the moral self. A recent
review by Schaubroeck, Kim, and Peng (2012) highlights a suite of constructs important to understanding the motivational and self-regulatory influence of the self on how people interact with their work environment. We focus on constructs significant to the motivational and regulatory aspects of the moral self and ethical behavior in organizations.
How does the moral self motivate moral behavior?
A key impetus for research on the moral self was to bridge the judgment–action gap (Lapsley & Narvaez, 2004). This is
particularly important for organizational settings in which individuals may be at risk of losing their job, becoming ostracized, or receiving threats for speaking up in support of their values, and in which it is often easier to “not rock the
boat.” Much more work is needed to determine how moral motivation operates in organizational contexts. We reviewed
some research that has addressed the relationship between the moral self and motivations (e.g., self-consistency, Jordan
et al., 2011; Vitell et al., 2011; self-improvement, Kurpis et al., 2008). Other studies have investigated how moral identity influences motivational states (e.g., moral elevation, Aquino et al., 2011; self-conscious emotions, Tangney et al.,
1996). Still, given the significance of the moral self to moral motivation, it is surprising that little attention has been
given to identifying and measuring specific motivations implicated by the moral self.
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Self-motivations (Shamir, 1991) may assist with this goal, as they emerge directly from and reflect back on the
self. The moral self does not function from a purely dispassionate and objective basis. Instead, the subjective
experience of and objective beliefs about the self and morality are subject to motivational as well as evaluative
and emotive forces (Baumeister, 1998). Moral self (cf. Bergman, 2004) and social psychology theories (cf.
Baumeister, 1998; Leary & Tangney, 2012) highlight several self-motivations to consider.
Self-consistency. Blasi’s (1993) theory suggests that moral identity creates a psychological need to act consistent
with one’s moral principles and ideals. There are three dimensions of self-consistency: (i) consistency in the unity
among different aspects of the self-concept at a given point in time (Higgins, Klein, & Strauman, 1987), (ii) consistency in the continuity of the self-concept across a period (Turner, 1968), and (iii) consistency in the congruence
between the self-concept and behavior—both in situ and chronically over time (Burke & Reitzes, 1981). To date,
research has given some attention to consistency between the self-concept and behavior, but only in a limited
way. More research is required on this important self-motivation.
Authenticity. Prevailing work motivation theories assume that people are hedonistic and instrumentally oriented
(Shamir, 1991). For example, VIE theory (valence, instrumentality, expectancy; Vroom, 1964) incorporates instrumentality directly into the motivational calculus of the individual. Similarly, goal-setting theory (Locke & Latham,
1990) directly builds on the idea that individuals are motivated by goals. A less pervasive assumption, but arguably
more central to moral functioning, is that people may also act non-instrumentally and be motivated to give authentic
expression of their moral self. This approach accounts for behaviors that are irrational, altruistic, and self-sacrificing
(Strauss, 1969). The most extreme expressions are supererogatory acts, such as a soldier falling on a grenade to save
comrades. Such acts are difficult to explain by instrumental logic but can emerge from motives to engage in ethical
behavior for the sake of others, a work unit, organization, or community (Shamir, 1991). Gecas (1986) further
suggests that this “authenticity motive” reflects an individual’s real identity or true self. Such an authenticity motive
is inherent in conceptualizations of the moral self (cf. Aquino & Reed, 2002; Erikson, 1964; James, 1892/2001) but
needs explicit empirical attention in future research.
Self-evaluations and self-enhancement. Individuals are also motivated by the desire to maintain and enhance positive
self-evaluations (Baumeister, 1998). Self-evaluations (e.g., self-esteem) can be considered distinct from selfenhancement in that they rely on different evaluative standards. For example, Higgins et al. (1987) proposed
that self-evaluations are guided by “ought self” qualities of what a person believes she or he ought to possess,
whereas self-enhancement is guided by an “ideal self” of qualities representing what a person aspires to possess. The two types of evaluative standards are internalized as part of a person’s self-concept and suggest that
moral behavior can be motivated by a desire to maintain and enhance positive self-evaluations relative to
“ought” and “ideal” self-guides (Bandura, 1986).
Self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a person’s beliefs about agentic capabilities (e.g., Bandura, 1986), and, specifically, the
motivation to perceive oneself as a causal agent to bring influence on one’s own functioning and environment
(Bandura, 2008). deCharms (1968) proposed that individuals strive to be “origins” of behavior, rather than “pawns”
of impinging forces. Self-efficacy, then, motivates one to be efficacious or agentive, which some argue lies at the
heart of the experience of the self (Erikson, 1964; Gecas, 1986; James, 1892/2001). Scholars have argued that
self-efficacy can exist as an aspect of moral self strength and be an important motivator of moral action (Mitchell
& Palmer, 2010). Despite its potential significance, we identified only two studies that have examined it (Hannah
& Avolio, 2010; Schaubroeck, Hannah, et al., 2012).
Self-presentation. Individuals are strongly motivated by the recognition and acknowledgement of others
(Baumeister, 1998). People will rarely see themselves as a great artist, good leader, or moral person unless others
do and provide affirming feedback. Indeed, individuals’ self-concepts are highly correlated with beliefs of how others
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perceive them (Baumeister, 1998). Self-presentational strategies are used to construct and socially validate one’s
sense of self. For example, instrumental self-presentation involves impressing others to achieve an ulterior goal. Exemplification self-presentation involves convincing people that you are a good person. Expressive self-presentation
involves making an impression on others to validate one’s true self (Baumeister, 1998). Testing such self-presentation
motives may help further explain the differential effects reviewed earlier, for example, between internalization and
symbolization of moral identity.
These different self-motivations overlap somewhat, but each extend our understanding of the motivational
implications of the moral self. For instance, self-consistency is thought to dominate the more cognitive aspects of
the self (Me-self), whereas self-expression and authenticity are thought to dominate the more affective aspects of
the self (I-self) (Baumeister, 1998). Further, social psychology research suggests that self-enhancement is likely a
stronger motivator than self-consistency and that self-expression and authenticity could be strongest of all
(Baumeister, 1998; Gecas, 1986). Also, just as the structure of the moral self may be multi-faceted, so are motivations that derive from it. Nucci (2002) observed that people are typically motivated to moral action for multiple selfrelevant reasons, suggesting that different self-motivations should be assessed in interaction. This is particularly
important as researchers study the moral self in dynamic and complex organizational contexts where, as noted
earlier, an array of situational factors can evoke numerous forms of human motivation. In sum, much research is
needed before we fully understand the motivational dynamics associated with the moral self.
What factors contribute to successful moral self-regulation?
Baumeister (1998) argued that the capacity to change and control oneself is one of the most fundamental, useful, and
adaptive aspects of the self. Higgins (1996) further emphasized the sovereignty of self-regulation. To this end, the
moral self has been described as a self-regulatory mechanism that motivates moral action (e.g., Aquino & Reed,
2002; Blasi, 1984; Erikson, 1964; Hart et al., 1998).
Research has examined facets of moral self-regulation (e.g., regulatory focus, Brebels et al., 2011; self-control,
Vitell et al., 2009; moral disengagement/engagement, Aquino et al., 2009; Detert et al., 2008). However, attention
to other self-regulatory capacities, such as those that contribute to moral self-regulation success and failure, would be
useful. Social psychology suggests that successful self-regulation requires (i) clear and viable standards, (ii) effective
self-monitoring, and (iii) potency to act and create change. Failed self-regulation involves (i) confused or conflicting
standards, (ii) poor self-monitoring, or (iii) a lack of strength or capacity to produce change (Baumeister et al., 1994).
These ideas may provide a basis for future research to enhance our understanding of the self-regulatory dynamics associated with the moral self.
Self-regulatory focus. The first two criteria for successful self-regulation involve clear and viable standards and
effective self-monitoring. Regulatory focus theory (RFT; Higgins, 1997) explains how people are motivated differently depending on their desired end state. “Strong oughts” represent beliefs about duties, obligations, and responsibilities, and “strong ideals” represent hopes, wishes, and aspirations (Higgins, 1997). RFT proposes that the focus
of self-regulation differs in relation to strong oughts versus strong ideals. Ought self-regulation involves a
“prevention focus” or sensitivity to avoiding negative outcomes (Higgins, 1997), thereby promoting one to be prudent, precautionary, and vigilant in avoiding wrongdoing, mistakes, and omissions related to the desired end state
(fulfilling duties, obligations, and responsibilities). Ideal self-regulation involves a “promotion focus” or sensitivity
to achieving positive outcomes (Higgins, 1997, p. 1281), thereby promoting advancement, growth, and mastery
toward achieving a desired end state (achieving virtue, aspirations, and excellence).
RFT can inform moral self theory. The “ought selves” and “ideal selves” serve as two types of evaluative self-guides
or standards that may directly implicate and operate together with certain self-motivations (e.g., self-enhancement) and
self-regulatory processes (e.g., self-regulatory focus). Research has not investigated how these and other aspects of the
moral self, motivations, and self-regulation operate together as a system, as opposed to discrete variables. As organizations impose role definitions, norms, and reward and punishment systems on members, more robust study of how strong
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“oughts” and “ideals” operate on individuals is needed. Further, a study of ideal selves may inform why individuals
develop into moral exemplars in organizations and may perform virtuous supererogatory acts that inspire others.
Self-regulatory strength. The ability to control and strengthen the self is a crucial resource for self-regulation.
Scholars contend that self-regulation can involve strength, consistent with the concept of willpower (Baumeister
et al., 1994) and akin to muscular strength (e.g., Muraven, Baumeister, & Tice, 1999). That is, self-resources associated
with moral action can be strengthened over time. In this view, impulses that emerge in response to temptation have a
certain strength or intensity, and overcoming them requires a corresponding form of self-regulatory strength. Our review
highlights recent research focusing on moral strength (e.g., moral potency, moral character, moral attitude, moral confidence, and moral conviction) and shows patterns consistent with the strength approach to self-regulation; moral
strength constructs positively influence ethical behaviors and negatively influence unethical behaviors.
There are three potential avenues to extend this work on self-regulatory strength to moral self theory. First, selfregulation research suggests that it is a depletable (but renewable) capacity that operates much like a muscle (Bauer
& Baumeister, 2011; Muraven et al., 1999). Like a muscle that grows tired and weak after exercise but strengthens
over time with continued exercise, self-regulatory capacity can be strengthened as well with repeated exercise of
self-control. This differs from the perspective of self-regulation as a cybernetic control system, operating like a thermostat on the basis of feedback (Carver & Scheier, 1981, 1998). The strength model suggests that self-regulation can
be enhanced or depleted by interaction with personal and situational factors (Narvaez & Lapsley, 2009). Indeed,
organizational research has shown that organizational factors, such as abusive supervision (see Martinko, Harvey,
Brees, & Mackey, 2013, for a review), can impair self-regulatory functioning, which prompt unethical and destructive work behavior (e.g., Hannah, Schaubroeck et al., 2013; Thau & Mitchell, 2010). It would be useful for scholars to
explore how organizations can strengthen employees’ self-regulation through building the strength of their moral self.
Second, the study of virtues and character strengths from positive psychology is also relevant. This work suggests
two dimensions of moral strength—negative and positive—operate through two self-regulatory routes that correspond to a prevention and promotion focus (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). In the negative dimension, character
strengths enable a person to persevere and keep to one’s moral commitments despite obstacles, temptations, or confusing circumstances (Kupperman, 1991). This involves forms of moral strength and conation, such as moral discipline and moral self-control, which can override and restrain base impulses to limit moral distress, disorder, or
corruption (Baumeister, Gailliot, & Tice, 2009). In the positive dimension, character strength enables goal-directed
pursuits of morally praiseworthy activities critical to moral fulfillment and flourishing (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
This involves positive forms of moral strength and conation (e.g., ego strength, moral courage, and moral efficacy)
associated with realizing moral commitments. This research suggests that moral self-regulation involves dual negative/prevention and positive/promotion modes of functioning (Bandura, 2008).
Third, the experience of moral strength is closely associated with the I-self in that it involves the experience of
authenticity, excitement, consistency, and enthusiasm, as well as enhancement and well-being (Peterson &
Seligman, 2004). These subjective experiences appear closely related to the self-motivations described earlier
and, when combined with positive and negative self-regulatory modes, suggest a dynamic system-like linkage
among these different aspects of the moral self. Indeed, we believe that one of the most needed and promising lines
of theory building will be to examine these system-like dynamics among moral self constructs. Such an integrative
approach is consistent with an emerging theoretical trend toward a more holistic understanding of the moral self (cf.
Narvaez & Lapsley, 2009), which we address next.
Toward a more holistic understanding of the moral self
We have framed the moral self as a set of self-relevant moral constructs that constitute a dynamic mode of functioning. This holistic understanding of the moral self is considerably broader than those represented in our empirical
review. There are two primary reasons to consider a more holistic approach to the moral self. First, differential
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effects in research findings exist across the “having” and “doing” side of the moral self. The “having” side—both the
content and structure of the moral self—is multi-faceted and dynamic and may have a certain global unity as well as
domain-specific qualities. Understanding how these dimensions create differential effects requires examining how
they implicate motivational and regulatory aspects of the “doing” side of the moral self. Second, there are recursive
interactions between the “having” and “doing” sides of the moral self. As noted earlier, both self-motivation and
self-regulation of the “doing” side involve complex cognitive, emotive, and evaluative processes that influence
the “having” side of the moral self. This recursive functioning makes it somewhat artificial to separate the “having”
side of who a person is from the “doing” side of how a person acts.
Integrative views of the moral self
More integrative theories of the moral self have begun to emerge in the literature but are largely untested. For
example, working from a “having” side perspective, McAdams (2009) provided a multi-level framework for the
moral self that begins at Level 1 with broadband dispositional traits inherited from evolutionary design, advances
to Level 2 with socially learned dispositional traits that show cross-situational consistency and developmental continuity, then transitions to Level 3 with characteristic adaptations that involve cognitive-affective self-regulatory
mechanisms that are highly responsive to situational cues, and ends at Levels 4 and 5 where characteristic adaptations emerge into moral self-defining life narratives (Level 4) that are expressed differentially in broader social
and cultural contexts (Level 5). McAdams’ theory is noteworthy because it provides a multidisciplinary perspective
that integrates the dispositional “having” side with the self-regulatory “doing” side of the moral self to account for
both cross-situational stability and variability (adaptability) of moral self functioning.
Other theorists have started from a “doing” side perspective to build integrative frameworks on the basis of social
cognitive and information processing theories. For example, Narvaez (2008) provided what she calls a “triune ethics
theory” of the moral self that builds on a social-cognitive view of the moral self and incorporates insights from
personality and evolutionary psychology, as well as from neuroscience. Her theory suggests a dynamic view of
the moral self, expressed as three moral orientations rooted in evolved strata of the brain. These moral orientations
(security, engagement, and imagination) can be dispositional or situationally activated, influencing perceptual processing and goal salience. Narvaez’s theory is noteworthy because it also integrates the “having” and “doing” sides of the
moral self, accounts for cross-situational stability as well as variance, and emphasizes moral self-development, which
has been neglected in extant empirical research. Hannah et al. (2011) also offered an integrative framework inclusive of
moral cognition capacities (moral maturation, moral meta-cognitive ability, and moral identity complexity) and moral
conation capacities (moral potency as described earlier). This framework attempts to describe the capacities needed to
process ethical issues from the stage of moral awareness, through judgment, intention, and, ultimately, behavior.
Thus, the trajectory of theorizing on the moral self is toward more integrative theoretical approaches that offer more
dynamic and holistic understandings. To date, the theoretical advances toward this end are far ahead of the empirical
research, which still uses a discrete variable-centric approach that fragments our understanding of the moral self. Yet,
an integrative approach is critical to better understand behavioral ethics in the complexity of organizational settings.
The mere making of a moral judgment does not inform why someone will attend to moral issues in the first place,
why they will feel the need to act, or why they will overcome pressures and temptations to act unethically. Therefore,
an integrative approach that provides a more holistic understanding is critical to resolving the judgment–action gap.
To conclude this review, we briefly discuss two final topics that can inform a more holistic view of the moral self.
Evolutionary psychology and neuroscience
Organizational researchers are increasingly drawing on evolutionary psychology and neuroscience to deepen our understanding of the internal workings of organizational behavior phenomena, such as work attitudes, workplace discrimination, and perceptions of fairness and organizational justice (Becker, Cropanzano, & Sanfey, 2011). These disciplines
have gained interest among moral self theorists in part because of Haidt and colleague’s (e.g., Haidt, 2001; Haidt &
Joseph, 2004) social intuitionist model of moral self functioning. For parsimony, Haidt’s model was not included in
our empirical review. However, this approach is compelling because it challenges long-held ontological and theoretical
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assumptions about the nature of the moral self. The social intuitionist approach is similar to the social-cognitive approach (e.g., Aquino & Reed, 2002) in that both allow for the automaticity of moral functioning but also differs in significant respects. First, it puts the locus of the moral self in innate moral intuitions derived from socio-biological
processes instead of a cognitively constructed moral self-concept or identity derived through social interactions. Second,
it posits that humans are equipped through biological and evolutionary inheritance with intuitive ethics—innate preparedness to feel flashes of approval or disapproval toward certain patterns of events involving others (Haidt & Joseph,
2004). Whereas the social-cognitive approach emphasizes cognitively based self-regulatory mechanisms (e.g.,
chronicity, activation of moral schemas), the social intuitionist approach emphasizes affective self-regulation (e.g.,
moral intuitions and moral emotions). Third, the social intuitionist approach asserts that moral cognition follows rather
than precedes moral behavior, in that moral reasoning rationalizes (im)moral judgments or behavior post hoc. These
ideas contrast with many core ideas of moral self theory (e.g., Blasi, 1984). Some of the key research questions provoked
by the social intuitionist approach (Moll, Oliveira-Souza, & Zahn, 2009) include the following: (i) How do cognition
and emotion interact to produce moral judgments and actions? (ii) To what extent do sophisticated moral capacities
(e.g., moral centrality, moral judgment dispositions, self-conscious moral orientation, self-conscious moral emotions,
and moral strength) rely on evolutionary-based motivational systems? (iii) What are the neural bases of moral knowledge, moral sentiments, and moral values? And (iv) how do biochemical and electrical activity in biological matter of
the brain give rise to the sense of self and self-conscious moral orientation in the first place?
Cultural psychology and the moral self
Organizational researchers have long recognized the importance of culture to how individuals form attachments to
social groups, including social identities, involvement, commitment, loyalty, psychological contracts, and citizenship behavior (Beyer, Hannah, & Milton, 2000). Similarly, moral self theorists also recognize that culture plays a
pivotal role in the construction of the moral self, on the basis of the Aristotelian premise that morality is culturally
situated (Haidt, 2008; Hunter, 2000; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Solomon, 1992; Triandis, 1989). Although our empirical review highlights a few studies addressing the influence of culture on the moral self, research is needed to
uncover how cultural differences, including differences in organizational culture, influence the moral self, and, specifically, its content and structure.
In terms of moral content, morality is culturally relative and particularistic to certain societies, institutions, communities, and organizations (Hunter, 2000; Leavitt et al., 2012). Thus, variations in morality exist across cultures (and
within cultures). Our review highlights that much research focus is given to Western cultural notions of morality, which
tend to focus on a small set of moral concerns related to harm/care and justice/fairness (Haidt, 2008). Researchers should
broaden the scope and consider how other types of cultural moral content affect the moral self.
In terms of the structure of the moral self, cultural psychology has shown that cultures vary in the relative emphasis they place on a variety of self-relevant factors (e.g., relative emphasis placed on the private versus the public
versus the collective self; Triandis, 1989; dimensions including individualism versus collectivism, complexity
versus simplicity, and independence versus interdependence; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Thus, research should
examine how the structure of the moral self varies along cultural dimensions.
Conclusion
Over the last 25 years, the role of the self in moral functioning has gained increased theoretical and empirical attention. Organizational behavior ethics researchers have taken an interest in the moral self as a way to better understand
ethical behavior in the workplace. Overall, our review of the empirical work supports the central thesis of moral self
theory, as findings show that the self generally plays a significant role in human moral functioning and ethical
behavior. Yet, this growing body of research on the moral self has produced a diversity of constructs that, although
informative, have provided highly fragmented findings that contribute to a lack of clarity as to the essential nature
and functioning of the moral self. Further, much of the literature has examined factors that influence the moral self
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and its influence outside of an organizational context. To continue to advance research on the moral self and its
implications to organizations, future research needs to adopt a more process-oriented, multidisciplinary, and integrative approach, with specific focus on organizational and work contexts.
Author biographies
Peter L. Jennings is as an Assistant Professor of Management at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. His current research focuses on the psychology of moral identity and character, and its significance to the
practice of leadership.
Marie S. Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of Management in the Terry College of Business at the University of
Georgia. Her research focuses on “dark,” destructive, and unethical behavior, examining antecedents and consequences of such behavior and which factors make these behaviors more or less likely.
Sean Hannah is Professor of Management and the Wilson Chair of Business Ethics at Wake Forest University
School of Business and is a retired US Army Colonel. He studies exemplary forms of leadership as well as leader
and character development.
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