Monday, March 29, 2010
How Ethical Are We?
The Uncommon Knowledge section of the Sunday Boston Globe featured a synopsis of an interesting new study about ethical decision making. The University of Toronto's Chen-Bo Zhong and several co-authors explored the question of whether poor ethical choices tend to occur more frequently during snap judgments or situations involving time for more extensive thought and reflection. Interestingly, Professor Zhong's results suggest that ethical lapses occur more often when people take time to consider their decisions. It may have to do with the fact that individuals assess their "morality bank account" if they have time to consider their decisions. The authors suggest that we may come to believe that we have earned some amount of "morality credits" after making ethical choices. Unfortunately, that means we then become comfortable making less ethical choices, because perhaps we see it as just drawing upon the credits that we have earned over time. In other words, we may come to think of less ethical choices as akin to withdrawing from a savings account that we have done a good job of building previously.