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Competition and sensemaking in ethical situations


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jay J. Caughron, Radford University, 439 Russell Hall, P.O. Box 6946, Radford, VA 24142, USA. E-mail:


Competition was examined in relation to ethicality. The effect of a competitor being an in-group vs. out-group member, the competitor offering uncorroborated or corroborated information, and the impact of the competitor goals were examined. The findings suggest that the way competition is presented has an important influence on how individuals make sense of an ethically ambiguous situation and make ethical decisions. A main effect was found, such that when a competitor offered uncorroborated information, participants made less ethical decisions and used pro-ethical reasoning strategies less often. An additional main effect was found suggesting that participants made more ethical decisions when working with an in-group competitor rather than an out-group competitor. Complex interactive effects were also found and discussed.