- Model Code
- Lab Tools
- Contact Us
You are here
Robert Prentice on the future of ethics training—trends
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Robert Prentice, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
(Robert has developed an excellent website for teaching ethics: 3 series and 44 videos, including teaching notes. One of the best resources in the country.)
An important portion of the future of ethics training will be to teach behavioral ethics—the science of ethical (and unethical) decision making. While there is much other important work to do as well, teaching well-meaning people about how to live up to their own ethical standards will be central to ethics training.
In this regard, a central task will be to convince people who want to do the right thing just how hard it is to do that all the time. People must be educated regarding the cognitive biases and heuristics, the social and organizational pressures, and the situational factors that can cause even good people to do bad things. Many factors make it easy for people to accept that others are susceptible to unethical decision making and actions, but very difficult for them to believe that they share similar vulnerabilities. Getting this message across effectively is very difficult, but very important.
Then, hopefully, lessons learned in other arenas can be applied to ethical decision making. Marketers have long exploited existing knowledge of the psychology of decision making to influence people’s purchasing behavior. Governments are beginning to exploit this research in order to “nudge” people to act in furtherance of public policy objectives. Perhaps firms can use this same research to adjust their firms’ choice architecture—the conditions under which employees make decisions—in order to improve the ethical outcomes in their firms.