Bounded Ethicality

Bounded ethicality is the idea that our ability to make ethical choices is often limited or restricted because of internal and external pressures.

Most people are usually ethical, but not completely so. Just like people are generally rational, but not as completely logical as Spock from Star Trek. Our ability to be ethical seems to have limits.

For example, outside pressures, such as the tendency to conform to the actions of those around us, can make it hard to do the right thing.  So can internal biases, such as the self-serving bias, which often causes us to subconsciously favor ourselves at the expense of others.

It’s important to understand that everyone is bounded ethically, even Mother Teresa. Indeed, we are all susceptible to the cognitive biases and organizational or social pressures that limit our abilities to make ethical decisions.