Moral Myopia

Moral myopia refers to the inability to see ethical issues clearly.

The term, coined by Minette Drumwright and Patrick Murphy, describes what happens when we do not recognize the moral implications of a problem or we have a distorted moral vision. An extreme version of moral myopia is called moral blindness.

For example, people may become so focused on other aspects of a situation, like pleasing their professor or boss or meeting sales targets, that ethical issues are obscured.

Organizations can experience moral myopia too, as Major League Baseball did during the steroid era. For more than a decade, players got bigger, hit more home runs, and revenues rose dramatically. But the League didn’t see it, even as evidence of steroid use was rampant.

Societies may also suffer moral myopia, as they often have done at the expense of minorities. For instance, the treatment of Native Americans and the enslavement of African-Americans are two examples of moral blindness in the history of the United States.

Moral myopia is closely related to ethical fading. In both cases, people’s perception of reality becomes altered so that ethical issues are indistinct and hidden from view.