Resolving Ethical Dilemmas – Exploring the Role of Moral Principles


  1. Blais, A.-R.
  2. Thompson, M.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN)
We sought to answer 2 questions via this exploratory study. First we investigated whether individual differences in moral principle selection/preference exist in response to 6 moral dilemmas. Second, we asked, if individual differences do exist, to what extent they related to the demographic variables of sex and age? As part of a larger study on moral decision making, 64 participants read and reflected upon 6 ethical dilemmas, rated the extent to which 5 moral principles influenced their decisions regarding these dilemmas, and selected their preferred courses of action in response to each dilemma. Results of multilevel analyses suggest that there was significant within- and between-subjects variability in the extent to which the participants relied on various moral principles to resolve the dilemmas. That is, clear individual differences existed in the moral principles that the participants reported had guided their moral responses to the dilemmas. We also found that different moral principles were invoked to differing extents depending on the domain of the decision (non-moral, military moral and non-military moral). Of the individual difference variables assessed here, results revealed that age was a significant predictor of moral principle preference, with older adults being more likely to use virtue- and care-based principles than did younger adults. Sex was not significantly associated with moral principle selection. We discuss the potential implications of individual dif

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ethical dilemma, moral principles, moral decision making, individual differences
Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-TR-2008-099 — Technical Report
Date of publication
30 Apr 2008
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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