Ethics Topics > Behavioral Ethics

Overview

Behavioral ethics studies why people make the ethical (and unethical) decisions that they do in order to gain insights into how people can improve their individual ethical decision-making capacities and promote ethical culture in organizations.

Traditional philosophical approaches focus on defining moral theory and understanding the very concepts of right and wrong. Behavioral ethics, on the other hand, examines how we make moral decisions and offers insights into how we can be our best selves. It is a relatively new area of study drawing on research from fields such as behavioral psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology. Its findings show that people are often influenced, subconsciously, by psychological biases, organizational and social pressures, and situation factors that impact decision making and can lead to unethical action.

These teaching resources explore many of the concepts of behavioral ethics applicable to our everyday personal and professional lives, such as framing, role morality, and self-serving bias.

Begin by viewing the recommended videos for an overview of key behavioral ethics concepts. To dig deeper and learn about many of the additional psychological biases, organizational pressures, and situational factors that can cause anyone to goof up, watch additional videos, or the whole playlist. To prompt conversation, use the discussion questions which follow each video. Read the video teaching notes for details and (often) assignment suggestions.

Read the case studies for examples of how business leaders, consumers, historical figures, and other professionals have been influenced by behavioral biases and organizational pressures when facing major moral challenges. To dig deeper, answer the case study discussion questions and sketch the ethical decision-making process outlined in each case. The case studies can start your class discussion on ethics.

To explore further, watch “related” videos and read their corresponding case studies. Many of the ethics concepts covered in Ethics Unwrapped operate in tandem with each other, so the more you watch, the greater your understanding of ethical issues.

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