This article reports on an experimental examination of rationalizations among CPAs. Rationalizations represent the cognitive justifications that individuals use to morally disengage their internal norms. While related research in accounting is scant, there is extensive, relevant, non-accounting research. That research distinguishes between “before-the-decision” and “after-the-decision” rationalizing, labeling the former “neutralizations” and the latter “rationalizations.” Unfortunately, confusion exists because the professional accounting literature related to the Fraud Triangle does not reflect the neutralization versus rationalization distinction. We find that neutralizations exposure increases CPAs' unethical intentions despite cautions against doing so. This result is robust to two different morally intense and practically relevant ethical cases. We also find that the influence of neutralizations exposure is unconscious and robust among Millennials and Gen Xers, but not among Baby Boomers.

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