An Innovative Pedagogy for Teaching Accounting Ethics Using Videos of Landmark Studies in Psychology


  • Donald Ariail Kennesaw State University
  • D. Larry Crumbley Texas A&M University Corpus Christi


ABSTRACT: This case study presents an innovative pedagogy for teaching accounting ethics using two landmark experiments in psychology: the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment. These experiments illustrate destructive obedience to the power of a supervisor and the potential negative outcomes of obedience to institutional power. These obedience concepts can be identified by students as being related to accounting scandals and frauds where accountants, including Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and auditors, were pressured by unethical tones-at-the-top into acting unethically. Other related topics include the “slippery slope” of unethical behavior, the importance of having ethical courage, and the fraud triangle element of rationalization, including the “good soldier” defense. Using the integrated approach to teaching ethics, and with coverage as needed of the included background content, this case study can be implemented as an online, in class, or hybrid component of any upper-level or graduate accounting course. However, it is most applicable to courses in accounting ethics, auditing, and forensic accounting. Instructors are provided with summaries of both experiments and with links to the required videos/documentaries and supplemental videos and readings. Additional resources include content quizzes, online discussion instructions, discussion questions, and keyword/topic prompts.


Key words: CPAs, Internal and external auditors, Skepticism, Tone-at-the-top, Ethical courage, Accounting ethics pedagogy, Business ethics, Slippery slope of unethical conduct, Rationalization, Inattentional blindness.




How to Cite

An Innovative Pedagogy for Teaching Accounting Ethics Using Videos of Landmark Studies in Psychology. (2023). The Accounting Educators’ Journal, 33.