As educators, we would like to believe that we can influence the ethical growth of our students. If we are to do this, it seems worthwhile to first understand what ethical decision-making is and how it happens. For millennia, ethical decision-making has fallen within the domain of philosophy. However, recent evidence suggests that the average person does not consider ethical dilemmas in the abstract. Instead, ethical decision-making appears to be a complex dance between an individual’s rational calculus of the ethical dilemma and their emotional response to the context of the dilemma. I will present an argument that in the trenches of daily life, psychology has a better grasp on the workings of ethical decision-making, while philosophy helps to provide direction. I will also present a number of historical and current psychological theories about ethical decision-making, from behaviorist to postmodern feminist. Throughout this discussion I will build on a psychological framework for ethical decision-making and moral development, and present implications for engineering education.


Materials Science and Engineering

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