Recent empirical studies support self-interest as the sole basis for economic decisions (as predicted by agency theory). However, cognitive moral development (CMD) theory suggests that decision makers will allow ethical/moral considerations to constrain their economic behaviour. The purpose of this study is to resolve the essential conflict between the tenets of agency theory and CMD theory. The results of a laboratory experiment suggest that both moral reasoning level and adverse-selection conditions (self-interest) can have a significant effect on managers’ project evaluation decisions. Specifically, managers are likely to continue a project that is expected to be unprofitable only when adverse selection conditions are present and moral reasoning level is low. Thus, agency theory may not be generalizable to accounting-based economic performance.
Department, Program, or Center
Rutledge, Robert and Karim, Khondkar, "The influence of self-interest and ethical considerations on managers' evaluation judgments" (1999). Accounting, Organizations and Society, Vol. 24 (Issue 2),Accessed from
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