Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Business Administration



First Advisor

Victoria Bush

Second Advisor

Melissa Cinelli

Third Advisor

Gary Hunter

Relational Format



Recent theories have posited that emotions play a central role in ethical decision making. However, most research has focused on and suggested that consumers follow cognitive, rational processes in decision making. While this is a well-established approach, research regarding the role of emotions in ethical decision making has gained considerable theoretical attention in recent years. Although various factors have been investigated for the influence on ethical judgments, the role of task related, and incidental emotions have received less attention. Theoretical models that examine ethical decision-making conflict at times and are historically divided into either a rational-based approach or a non-rationalist-based (reason or emotive) approaches. More recent models posit an integrated or a dual-process approach to ethical decision-making, focusing more on the inter-related impact of intuition-emotion combined with reason-rationalization aspect of ethical decision-making. This research serves to examine the relationship of emotions in ethical decision making and behavioral intentions by investigating the effects of positive (happiness) and negative (anger) emotions in both a task related and incidental context. The scenario is presented in a consumer context of ethical judgments using a passive unethical behavior scenario. Research has focused on the effect of specific incidental emotions on ethical decision-making. This research focuses on the differing effects of specific incidental and task emotions in a service-based encounter. Self-control is utilized as a moderator of these emotions in ethical decision-making, and moral potency is further examined for inclusion into marketing literature. Based on a sample of 251 responses to an experimental scenario-based survey, this study found that the interaction between the task and incidental emotions does significantly impact ethical judgments and there is a moderating effect of self-control and moral potency. Consumers do not always behave in an ethical manner and will frequently accept an unethically obtained passive benefit. The results will facilitate an improved consideration of the role of the interaction of emotions on consumer ethics, an improved understanding of how to mitigate those emotions, and provide some understanding of how emotions impact unrelated judgments and decision-making.



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