Ethical Decision Making in Goal-Directed Influence: The “Target Effect”

Ingrid Fulmer, Bruce Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstract


Behavioral ethics scholarship to date has largely focused on the thought processes of individuals facing discrete ethical dilemmas where the influence of other people (e.g., peer or leader influence and/or shared social/ethical norms) on one’s thoughts and actions is assumed to be exogenous to the dilemma itself. Prior work ignores the more complex and more frequent ethical decisions about tactics (e.g., lying) and goals that are embedded within goal-directed interpersonal interactions. Our theoretical model advances research in behavioral ethics by highlighting the social-cognitive and self-regulatory processes whereby an actor’s ethical thought is shaped directly by the influence target (the “target effect”) during common social influence situations (e.g., goal-directed influence, persuasion, negotiation). We consider how social cognitive processes triggered by the target affect the actor’s ethical decision-making: (1) by activating or deactivating the accessibility of an actor’s moral identity, (2) by altering the actor’s judgments about the moral intensity of influence tactics or goals, and (3) by shaping the actor’s moral judgment process and the ethical ideology utilized by the actor for making moral judgments. We reflect on the implications of our theoretical model for future research and for understanding the ethical dimensions of interactions within and around organizations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12380
JournalAcademy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


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