Individual differences in ethics positions: The EPQ-5

PLoS One. 2021 Jun 21;16(6):e0251989. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251989. eCollection 2021.


We revised the Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ), which measures variations in sensitivity to harm (idealism) and to moral standards (relativism). Study 1 identified the core components of the measured constructs theoretically and verified those features through confirmatory factor analysis (n = 2,778). Study 2 replicated these findings (n = 10,707), contrasted the theoretically defined two-factor model to alternative models, and tested for invariance of factor covariances and mean structures for men and women. Study 3 examined the relationship between the EPQ and related indicators of ethical thought (values and moral foundations) and the theory's four-fold classification typology of exceptionists, subjectivists, absolutists, and situationists. The three studies substantially reduced the original EPQ's length, clarified the conceptual interpretation of the idealism and relativism scales, affirmed the EPQ's predictive and convergent validity, and supported the four-fold classification of individuals into ethics positions. Implications for previous findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Morals*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data

Grant support

O’Boyle’s work on this project was supported by the Dale M. Coleman Chair of Management and Indiana University. Forsyth’s work on this project was supported by the Leo K. and Gaylee Thorsness Chair in Ethical Leadership and University of Richmond.