Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Marketing

Committee Director

Anusorn Singhapakdi

Committee Member

Kiran Karande

Committee Member

Sara A. Morris

Committee Member

Kae Chung


This dissertation is a partial test of the Hunt-Vitell (1986, 1993) general theory of marketing ethics, which, along with previous tests of the model and other empirical and theoretical work, serves as the basis for this research. The dissertation model is the most comprehensive test of Hunt-Vitell to date, in the sense that it tests variables at almost every stage of the ethical decision making process described in the Hunt-Vitell theory.

The sample was obtained through a mail survey of American Marketing Association (AMA) practitioner members. Empirical testing was carried out through correlation and regression analysis. Of the seventeen hypotheses, nine were supported and three had weak support. The findings confirm the hypothesis that marketers who work in firms with higher corporate ethical values are more perceptive of situations with problematic ethical content. Personal religiousness is also positively related to such perception; relativism, as a personal moral philosophy, is negatively related, both as hypothesized. Though these characteristics are exogenous in the model, and somewhat distant from actual ethical behavior, the findings are important because perception of an ethical problem actually triggers the entire process of ethical decision making.

Also well supported in this research is the hypothesized predominance of the deontological (duty-based) evaluation over the teleological one (consequential). Marketers who tend toward deontological reasoning make more ethical judgments, and that judgment was found to be positively related to ethical intentions. A weak link was found between personal relativism and teleological evaluation, as hypothesized.

Insignificant results include the fact that no support was found for a link between a teleological evaluation and ethical judgment, or for a negative relationship between personal religiousness and teleological reasoning. There was also no relationship between higher corporate ethical values and either deontological or teleological evaluation. Finally, the data do not support a negative relationship between personal relativism and teleological evaluations.