Students’ Reasoning about Dilemmas in Business Ethics

Journal of Business Ethics Education 17:5-28 (2020)
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Ethics education has become a priority at many business schools. A common pedagogical strategy in business ethics education has been to encourage students to deliberate and reason about cases and dilemmas. However, relatively little is known about how students actually reason, by default, about business ethics cases and dilemmas. In a large-scale study with undergraduate management students, we investigate how students reason about ethical dilemmas in business. Our results suggest that, after making an initial decision in a dilemma, students rarely changed their minds after deliberating over an extensive set of reasons for both sides of the dilemma. Students evaluated reasons in a way that preferentially supported their initial decisions. This post-hoc evaluation of reasons to preferentially support initial decisions also had implications for decision entrenchment: students actually tended to become more confident in the superiority of their initial decisions after deliberating over the reasons for both sides. We discuss the challenges that our findings pose for teaching business ethics.



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