, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 535-551

Emotional engagement in professional ethics

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Abstract

Recent results from two different studies show evidence of strong emotional engagement in moral dilemmas that require personal involvement or ethical problems that involve significant inter-personal issues. This empirical evidence for a connection between emotional engagement and moral or ethical choices is interesting because it is related to a fundamental survival mechanism rooted in human evolution. The results lead one to question when and how emotional engagement might occur in a professional ethical situation. However, the studies employed static dilemmas or problems that offered only two choices whose outcome was certain or nearly so, whereas actual problems in professional ethics are dynamic and typically involve considerable uncertainty. The circumstances of three example cases suggest that increasing personal involvement and uncertainty could have been perceived as changes, threats, or opportunities and could therefore have elicited an emotional response as a way to ensure the reputation, integrity or success of oneself or a group to which one belongs. Such emotional engagement is only suggested and more studies and experiments are required to better characterize the role of emotional engagement in professional ethics.