Wharton Research Scholars

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:
Sockol, Jonathan. "Ethical Decision Making: Un-Assuming Assumptions about What is Special...And What is Not?" Wharton Research Scholars Journal. University of Pennsylvania. April 2009.


The field of ethical decision making has since its inception considered itself separate and distinct from other types of decision making. Empirical scholarship has long rested on this assumption. Prominent theories and results in this field however are ―mixed: inconclusive, difficult to compare, and sometimes conflicting‖ (Elm and Radin, 2008). Highlighting these deficiencies, Elm and Radin propose we take a step backward and examine the field‘s distinctness from other forms of decision making. They argue that if the base assumption is incorrect, if there is nothing special or different about ethical decision making, then prior research is impoverished by the absence of studies of decision making as a whole and its relationship with moral issues (Elm & Radin, 2008). The result of which Elm and Radin propose has led empirical studies to move forward without challenging the supposition that ethical decision making is separate from other types of decision making.

Elm and Radin‘s study establishes as a starting point for this line of inquiry. While their data indicates a need for future research, the study admittedly has certain shortcomings. Foremost among these is their failure to consider in tandem both the types of factors that influence decision making as well as their relative importance. The premise of this article is to integrate that normative importance into an examination of decision making as a whole.


ethics, decision making

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Business Commons



Date Posted: 02 September 2010