Beyond the particular and universal:dependence, independence, and interdependence of context, justice, and ethics

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Fortin, Marion ; Nadisic, Thierry ; Bell, Chris M. ; Crawshaw, Jonathan R. ; Cropanzano, Russell (2016)

This article reflects on context effects in the study of behavioral ethics and organizational justice. After a general overview, we review three key challenges confronting research in these two domains. First, we consider social scientific versus normative approaches to inquiry. The former aims for a scientific description, while the latter aims to provide prescriptive advice for moral conduct. We argue that the social scientific view can be enriched by considering normative paradigms. The next challenge we consider, involves the duality of morally upright versus morally inappropriate behavior. We observe that there is a long tradition of categorizing behavior dichotomously (e.g., good vs. bad) rather than continuously. We conclude by observing that more research is needed to compare the dichotomous versus continuous perspectives. Third, we examine the role of “cold” cognitions and “hot” affect in making judgments of ethicality. Historically speaking, research has empathized cognition, though recent work has begun to add greater balance to affective reactions. We argue that both cognition and affect are important, but more research is needed to determine how they work together. After considering these three challenges, we then turn to our special issue, providing short reviews of each contribution and how they help in better addressing the three challenges we have identified.
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