Don't just trust your gut: the importance of normative deliberation to ethical decision-making at work

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There has been a recent rise in behavioural ethics research examining how to promote ethical decisions at work. Several of these studies have indicated that deliberative thinking or considering divergent views leads to less ethical decisions (Pierce, Kilduff, Galinsky, & Sivanathan, 2013; Moore & Tenbrunsel, 2014; Zhong, 2011). This position is in stark contrast to the philosophical literature on normative theories, which emphasises the importance of deliberation to ethical decisions.

In this paper, we note that many of these behavioural ethics studies have not focused on normative deliberation and we argue that normative deliberation (ie, considering or applying a normative theory) boosts ethical decision-making. Across several experiments, we examine the effects of non-normative deliberation (ie, calculations and writing tasks) and normative deliberation (ie, considering ethical obligations) to ethical decision making. We conclude that the type of deliberation matters.