Learning About Ethics: Analogical Encoding Increases Moral Awareness

Making ethical decisions presumably requires knowledge about ethics. If so, then one reason that people might make unethical decisions is that they have limited understandings of ethical principles. Deepening people’s understanding of ethical principles then might enable them to make more ethical decisions. As drawing analogies can foster deeper understandings of principles, the current study tested whether comparing two analogous examples of an ethical principle, the conflict of interest principle, improves people’s understanding of that principle, and found that it did. The study also showed that, as a result, drawing analogies promoted higher levels of moral awareness for a new situation in which the principle was at stake. Finally, the study found that drawing analogies also promoted making an ethical choice. Thus, the study supports the possibility that one reason people make poor ethical choices might be that they have limited understanding of ethical principles, which decreases moral awareness.
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