Coding Ethical Decision-Making in Research

Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (1):121-146 (2017)

This paper presents methods and challenges attendant on the use of protocol analysis to develop a model of heuristic processing applied to research ethics. Participants are exposed to ethically complex scenarios and asked to verbalize their thoughts as they formulate a requested decision. The model identifies functional parts of the decision-making task: interpretation, retrieval, judgment and editing and seeks to reliably code participant verbalizations to those tasks as well as to a set of cognitive tools generally useful in such work. Important difficulties in the reliability and external validity of measurement are evaluated and a small set of illustrative data is used in support of that discussion. Results indicate that both intuitive emotional but also more deliberative cognition is present which is consistent with work in related literatures in expertise and in neuropsychology. Finally, the theoretical and practical potential of the approach is elaborated, particularly through links to a framing in Aristotelian ethics.
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-016-9756-3
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