Personal and situational values predict ethical reasoning

Micha Strack, Carsten Gennerich


In interpersonal value conflicts ethical principles are employed to justify own actions. However, there is competition among ethical principles. Therefore the preference for a specific ethical principle may be merely a function both of personal values and of the value-laden situations in which actions are made. A German sample of 132 partici-pants rated their agreement on ten justifications in seven experimentally constructed situations. The situations varied in their expression of values, organized by the value circle (Schwartz, 1992). The justifications assess five ethical principles (deontology, utilitarianism, partiality, hedonism, and intuitionism). Variance components of the agreement ratings were separated using GLM and plotted in the value circle. Preferences for ethical principles depended on both the value content of situations and the responder values. The Person x Situation interaction was not significant. The results illustrate the difficulties in gaining agreement on arguments among individuals with conflicting values.


values; moral reasoning; person-situation interaction

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