Concepts Unwrapped | Being Your Best Self, Part 1: Moral Awareness


[Professor Robert Prentice] Many of the Concepts
Unwrapped videos use the research generated by the new field of behavioral ethics to illustrate
how difficult it can be to do the right thing, even for people who are good folks. A desire to please authority or to fit in
with the group may cause people to act inconsistently with their own moral values. For example, the slippery slope can cause
people to fail to notice lapses in moral judgment made by themselves or others. The list goes on, but the underlying lesson
is clear: It’s not easy to always be a good person, even if you want to be. But behavioral ethics can also give us guidance
as to how to act more ethically and induce others to do so too. According to Professor James Rest, there are
four key steps to acting ethically, which we have modified slightly. First, people must perceive the ethical dimensions
of an issue that they face. This is Moral Awareness. Second, they must have the ability to decide
upon a course of action that is ethical. This is Moral Decision Making. Third, they must have the desire to act on
that ethical decision. This is known as Moral Intent. Fourth and finally, they must have the motivation
and courage to act upon that desire, which we call Moral Action. This video explores the first step to being
your best self, which means developing moral awareness. [Carlos] I think the important thing is to
recognize that there is always an ethical issue. There is always an ethical dimension to any
decision that we make. Absent moral awareness, people might accidentally
make the right choice, but they might also accidentally make an unethical choice because
they are focusing upon other aspects of the decision calculus and inadvertently omitting
any ethical considerations. [Nikki] I’ve made some gut… decisions with
my gut, that have had unintended consequences like down the road in my personal life where
I feel like in a relationship with someone, I can sense that they may not be true to me
and may not be being faithful and honest about all their intentions and I ignore it because
what I want in the moment is more important to me then than standing up and saying, “This
isn’t right.” It’s really easy to do that in like a personal
situation because you think that like I can sacrifice, like, future pain for like,
present happiness, which I think definitely has parallels in the workplace. Studies on selective attention prove that
people generally see what they expect to see. If you focus too much on pleasing your boss,
on getting along with your co-workers, on meeting sales quotas or bonus targets, you
may not even see an ethical issue which is right there in front of you. The phenomenon that Professors Bazerman and
Tenbrunsel call “ethical fading,” and Drumwright and Murphy call “moral myopia,” can blind
all of us to ethical miscues if we’re not careful. [Taylor] For this marketing and advertising
class I had, we had to do a campaign, and I personally am really against… I’m against some of the ads that are out
there because I feel like it depicts one centralized image of beauty or what beautiful is. So one of our ads was with a group, and of
course, all the guys were like, “Oh, Megan Fox is so hot, we need to put her on the cover,”
and I was like, “Ok, sure.” And later on, I was thinking about it and
I was wondering, “Why didn’t we just use someone from our… normal, average girl from
our class, like that’s still, I feel like, the same level of beauty and it would portray
to other people that there’s not just one centralized image or one certain aspect of
what beauty is.” It is our responsibility, as people who wish
to live ethical lives, to keep ethics in our frame of reference. We can do so by reminding ourselves every
morning in the shower that we wish to be good people and that to meet that goal we must
constantly strive to act ethically, just as we must constantly strive to gain more knowledge and skill regarding the technical aspects of our jobs. Looking out for ethical minefields is part
of our personal and professional responsibility every day. When I was in the Marines, when I was in the
Middle East, we had word that there was going to be a car bomb that was headed towards our
base. Someone came by that matched most of what
we had, but didn’t match everything. Even though a lot of people were convinced that
this was the guy, and that our situation was solved, and that we caught the car bomber,
something in my gut had me thinking otherwise. So I spent about 12 hours that day digging,
and come to find out it wasn’t him. Definitely a case of my boss saying, “Alright,
you’ve got it, let it go. We’ve hit the 80% solution.” And in this case, 80% solution was not ethical. Behavioral ethics teaches that we must practice
listening to our moral intuition, “to our gut,” rather than turning all ethical discussions
into legalistic exercises like lawyers weighing both sides of the issue or accountants parsing
technical language in an attempt to justify a position that intuition tells them is wrong. Our gut instinct is not always right, but
we would be foolish to ignore it. Psychologists DeSteno and Valdesolo say this:
“When faced with a moral decision, take a few seconds to pause and listen to your inner
voices. Is there a hint of guilt, a hint of shame,
a gut feeling of unease? If so, don’t ignore it.” This is your moral awareness awakening. [Arthur] We’re not meant to follow blindly
the ideals of any system, but to seriously inquire about how they apply to our lives, our ever-changing world, and how they apply to the people, the organizations, and institutions that we work with. Explaining that gut feeling and helping other
people feel that gut feeling helped them empathize with me and give me the time that I needed
to get to the right conclusion. [Melissa] Sometimes our gut feelings are a
good indication that something wrong is going on, and it is hard to decipher when you
should be listening more to your gut and when you should be doing more rational thinking. If you have a feeling that it’s not the right
thing, make sure you keep working until it is.

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