An Analysis of the Factor Structure of the Multidimensional Ethics Scale and a Perceived Moral Intensity Scale, and the Effect of Moral Intensity on Ethical Judgment


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Virginia Tech


Two studies analyzed the factor structure of the 8-item Multidimensional Ethics Scale (MES) (Reidenbach and Robin, 1988, 1990), a 30-item MES (the 30 items used to develop the 8-item measure), and a Perceived Moral Intensity Scale. Factor analyses supported a 3-factor structure for the 8-item MES, marginally supported a 5-factor structure (but more strongly suggested a 1-factor structure) for the 30-item MES, and supported a 3-factor structure for the Perceived Moral Intensity Scale. These scales were then used in a third study that examined the effect of manipulated and perceived moral intensity (Jones, 1991) on participants' ethical judgment of actions taken in 18 scenarios of an arguably ethical nature. A within-subject design found that manipulated moral intensity had a significant effect on ethical judgment, but perceived moral intensity did not. When ethical judgment (as measured by the three factors of the 8-item MES) was regressed on age, gender, major, perceived moral intensity factors, and interactions between age, gender, major and perceived moral intensity factors, the variance accounted for (R2) was significant for each of the three ethical judgment factors in both high and low intensity conditions using a between-subjects design, but was only significant for one of the ethical judgment factors (Moral Equity), and this only for low intensity scenarios, using a within-subject design. One explanation for the difference in effect appears to be that the means for the three perceived moral intensity factors were significantly different for the low versus high intensity condition using the between-subjects design, but the means of two of the three factors were not significantly different using the within-subject design. Three explanations for this were suggested: perceived moral intensity may not have reached a necessary threshold due to explicit referents for comparison; cognitive demand may have been greater when two versions of a single scenario were being evaluated; and, the online administration of the study may have introduced greater error variance than the in-person paper-pencil administration. Ethical judgment was found to be a more robust predictor of intention than perceived moral intensity using a within-subject design. Suggestions were made for future research.



Ethical Judgment, Ethical Decision Making, MES, Moral Intensity