Date of Graduation

Summer 2008


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

Michelle Visio


The purpose of this study is to examine participant's authoritarian personality, an individual difference variable that may obscure a person's perception of unethical acts committed in an organization by employees with different status or power levels. A total of 161 undergraduate students participated in this multiple-experiment format. Participants completed the Right Wing Authoritarian Scale. Three to four weeks later, participants returned and rated written vignettes of different unethical situations. The study was a 2 (power differentials: staff or executive) X 3 (different unethical scenarios: slight, moderate, or severe) between-subjects design with scores on the RWA examined as a moderator. The results suggest that the intensity of a situation does affect an employee's perception of ethical situations. Power status of an employee committing an unethical behavior did not influence ratings. In addition, there was not strong support for authoritarian personality as a moderator among intensity of the unethical situation, power status of the individual committing the unethical act, and perceptions of unethical behavior. Intensity of the unethical situation was the only significant predictor of perceptions of unethical behavior.


authoritarianism, ethics, power, unethical situations, ethical policies

Subject Categories



© Victoria Patricia McKee

Campus Only