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Abstract

The ethical integrity and accountability of Information Technology (IT) professionals is important given our reliance on various forms of IT. We examined the applicability of Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of Cognitive Moral Development (CMD) in non-Western contexts by investigating the ethical values of IT professionals in Asia’s two largest economies. Analysis of survey data from Japan (n=289) and China (n=290) indicates support for the basic six-stage model of CMD. The concept of abiding by universal laws and rules (termed stage 4 reasoning by Kohlberg) was widely accepted by IT professionals in both Japan and China, despite the Confucian cultural emphasis on personal relationships with particularistic obligations. However, differences between Japanese and Chinese IT professionals were found while, in direct contrast with the stage-wise theory of CMD, the respondents from Japan and especially China exhibited significant volatility, reasoning at different stages simultaneously. The implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.

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