Social dominance and ethical ideology: the end justifies the means?J Soc Psychol. 2003 Oct; 143(5):549-58.JS
Although many social psychological researchers have tried to identify the antecedents of unethical or immoral behavior, investigators have little considered the content of ethical beliefs that associate with important personality variables such as authoritarianism (B. Altemeyer, 1981, 1996) and social dominance orientation (SDO; J. Sidanius, 1993). Previous studies suggest that authoritarianism is associated with the rejection of relativistic standards for moral actions and--to a lesser extent--the idealistic belief that moral actions should not harm others (J. W. McHoskey, 1996). In the present study, 160 New Zealand University students completed measures of SDO (J. Sidanius), Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA, B. Altemeyer, 1981), and two subscales of ethical ideology: Relativism and Idealism (D. R. Forsyth, 1980). As expected, SDO showed a negative relationship with Idealism, a belief that actions should not harm others. But, contrary to expectations, SDO showed no consistent association with relativism, a belief that the moralities of actions are not comparable. On the basis of those findings, people with high SDO might be described as "ruthless" in their pursuit of desirable goals and are indifferent about whether the morality of different actions can be compared or even matter.