Hierarchical Motive Structures and Their Role in Moral Choices

Abstract

Leader-managers face a myriad of competing values when they engage in ethical decision-making. Few studies help us understand why certain reasons for action are justified, taking precedence over others when people choose to respond to an ethical dilemma. To help address this matter we began with a qualitative approach to disclose leader-managers’ moral motives when they decide to address a work-related ethical dilemma. One hundred and nine military officers were asked to provide their reasons for taking action, justifications of their reasons, and to explain these justifications. We used network analysis techniques to identify a hierarchical motive structure. The motive structure is a cognitive map that identifies ethical motives and perceptions of how these ethical motives relate to each other. The motives identified represent classic conceptualizations of moral behavior; namely, virtue theories, consequentialism, and deontological theories, along with another category that expressed the emotional significance of the moral judgment, which we refer to as emotional empiricism.

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Correspondence to Leslie E. Sekerka.

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Bagozzi, R.P., Sekerka, L.E. & Hill, V. Hierarchical Motive Structures and Their Role in Moral Choices. J Bus Ethics 90, 461–486 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-010-0601-3

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Keywords

  • moral decision making
  • cognitive networks
  • motives
  • ethics