Virtue and vice attributions in the business context: an experimental investigation

Brian Robinson*, Paul Stey, Mark Alfano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Recent findings in experimental philosophy have revealed that people attribute intentionality, belief, desire, knowledge, and blame asymmetrically to side-effects depending on whether the agent who produces the side-effect violates or adheres to a norm. Although the original (and still common) test for this effect involved a chairman helping or harming the environment, hardly any of these findings have been applied to business ethics. We review what little exploration of the implications for business ethics has been done. Then, we present new experimental results that expand the attribution asymmetry to virtue and vice. We also examine whether it matters to people that an effect was produced as a primary or side-effect, as well as how consumer habits might be affected by this phenomenon. These results lead to the conclusion that it appears to be in a businessperson's self-interest to be virtuous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-661
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Attributions
  • Knobe effect
  • Side-effect
  • Side-effect effect
  • Vice
  • Virtue


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