This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Wisdom: A Virtue or a Vice? Examining Wisdom's Role in Moral Reasoning and Behavior in Organizations




Wilmore, Thomas

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Psychological Sciences


Research has demonstrated personality traits’ capacity to predict moral thinking and workplace behavior. This research has predominantly focused on traits contained within the Big Five and HEXACO frameworks. However, research on commonly labeled virtue traits, such as wisdom, has typically been relegated to the field of positive psychology and has received little attention in organizational psychology and related fields. This study sought to bridge that gap by examining wisdom’s role in moral cognition and workplace behavior. In the first sample of undergraduate students (N = 136), wisdom predicted moral imagination and moral disengagement and did so above and beyond other relevant personality traits (i.e., Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Honesty-humility, and dispositional creativity). In the undergraduate sample, moral disengagement predicted unethical behavior, as measured via a self-reported scale and an in-basket exercise. However, moral imagination failed to predict unethical behavior. The second study examined U.S. working adults across three time points (N = 417). In this sample, wisdom again predicted moral imagination and moral disengagement and demonstrated incremental validity above and beyond the personality traits described above. Wisdom also predicted counterproductive work behavior and unethical pro-organizational behavior through moral disengagement in Study 2. Wisdom’s indirect effect on counterproductive work behavior through moral imagination also received some support in Study 2.Moral identity, formalist orientation, and power were also examined as moderators of wisdom’s influence on moral cognition (i.e., moral disengagement and moral imagination). However, none of the moderating hypotheses received support in either sample.