Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 271–292 | Cite as

The Capacity for Ethical Decisions: The Relationship Between Working Memory and Ethical Decision Making

  • April Martin
  • Zhanna Bagdasarov
  • Shane Connelly
Original Paper


Although various models of ethical decision making (EDM) have implicitly called upon constructs governed by working memory capacity (WMC), a study examining this relationship specifically has not been conducted. Using a sense making framework of EDM, we examined the relationship between WMC and various sensemaking processes contributing to EDM. Participants completed an online assessment comprised of a demographic survey, intelligence test, various EDM measures, and the Automated Operation Span task to determine WMC. Results indicated that WMC accounted for unique variance above and beyond ethics education, exposure to ethical issues, and intelligence in several sensemaking processes. Additionally, a marginally significant effect of WMC was also found with reference to EDM. Individual differences in WMC appear likely to play an important role in the ethical decision-making process, and future researchers may wish to consider their potential influences.


Ethical decision-making Working memory capacity Sensemaking AOSPAN Individual differences 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • April Martin
    • 1
  • Zhanna Bagdasarov
    • 1
  • Shane Connelly
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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