Field and Experience Influences on Ethical Decision-Making in the Sciences

Ethics Behav. 2009 Jul 1;19(4):263-289. doi: 10.1080/10508420903035257.


Differences across fields and experience levels are frequently considered in discussions of ethical decision-making and ethical behavior. In the present study, doctoral students in the health, biological, and social sciences completed measures of ethical decision-making. The effects of field and level of experience with respect to ethical decision-making, metacognitive reasoning strategies, social-behavioral responses, and exposure to unethical events were examined. Social and biological scientists performed better than health scientists with respect to ethical decision-making. Furthermore, the ethical decision-making of health science students decreased as experience increased. Moreover, these effects appeared to be linked to the specific strategies underlying participants' ethical decision-making. The implications of these findings for ethical decision-making are discussed.