Chapter 9: The Role of Intuition in Ethical Decision Making
James Richard Guzak and M. Blake Hargrove Ethical decision making has been an important area of theoretical and empirical work within the field of organizational behavior for the past 25 years. To date, most of this work has focused on rationality as the basis of most ethical decisions, while relatively little research attention has centered on the role intuition plays in ethical decisions (Haidt, 2001; Reynolds, 2006; Sonenshein, 2007). The purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief review of the most important theories of ethical decision making within the field, to provide a more in-depth review of the potential importance of non-cognitive intuitive modes of ethical decision making, and to propose some potential opportunities for further research. The theoretical underpinning for modern ethical decision-making research stems from Rest’s (1986) foundational work which suggests that people move sequentially along a four-step process of moral decision making. These steps include (i) moral awareness – being able to interpret the situation as being moral; (ii) moral judgment – deciding which course of action is morally right; (iii) moral intent – prioritizing moral values over other values; and (iv) moral behavior – executing and implementing the moral intention. Subsequent empirical research in ethical decision making has primarily focused on testing Rest’s four steps as dependent measures. Various researchers have offered independent variables emphasizing individual constructs, organizational constructs, and Jones’s (1991) moral intensity construct (Ford & Richardson, 1994; Loe et al., 2000; McDevitt et al., 2007; O’Fallon & Butterfield, 2005). Rest’s (1986) four-step model suggests a description of a...
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