Operational ethics – The effects of option choice and perspective taking on military moral decision making processes


  1. Thompson, M.M.
  2. Hendriks, T.
  3. Blais, A-R.
Corporate Authors
Defence Research and Development Canada, Toronto Research Centre , Toronto ON (CAN)
One hundred and fifty-three military participants read one of two military moral scenarios drawn from the operational experiences of Canadian Armed Forces commanders and then selected one of two possible response options (Scenario1. Refugees asking to enter your military camp: a) let them in vs. b) turn them away; or Scenario 2. Disobedient subordinate: a) private reprimand or b) court martial). Participants were also randomly assigned to consider one of three harm perspectives: to themselves, to others, or the target of harm was undefined. They then completed other moral decision-making indices. Eighty percent responded in a manner consistent with mission rules to maintain neutrality and opted to keep the refugees out of the camp, while they were evenly split as to whether to privately reprimand or court martial the subordinate. Both scenario and option choice affected decision-making processes, particularly the extent of moral conflict, or inconsistency between the moral decision making indices. In the subordinate scenario, those whose choice was more reflective of mission rules for neutrality, i.e., the court martial, evaluated their decision as being significantly more moral and more likely to be agreed with by others than did those who selected the private reprimand. However, in the refugee scenario, participants whose choice was more consistent with the mission orders regarding neutrality and impartiality, i.e., turned the refugees away from the camp, also rated that th

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operational ethics;military moral decision making
Report Number
DRDC-RDDC-2016-R095 — Scientific Report
Date of publication
01 Jun 2016
Number of Pages
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