Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 144, Issue 4, pp 679–697 | Cite as

Business Ethics: The Promise of Neuroscience

  • Diana C. Robertson
  • Christian VoegtlinEmail author
  • Thomas Maak


Recent advances in cognitive neuroscience research portend well for furthering understanding of many of the fundamental questions in the field of business ethics, both normative and empirical. This article provides an overview of neuroscience methodology and brain structures, and explores the areas in which neuroscience research has contributed findings of value to business ethics, as well as suggesting areas for future research. Neuroscience research is especially capable of providing insight into individual reactions to ethical issues, while also raising challenging normative questions about the nature of moral responsibility, autonomy, intent, and free will. This article also provides a brief summary of the papers included in this special issue, attesting to the richness of scholarly inquiry linking neuroscience and business ethics. We conclude that neuroscience offers considerable promise to the field of business ethics, but we caution against overpromise.


Neuroscience methods Brain structures Normative business ethics Empirical business ethics Ethical decision making 



The authors thank Laura Noval and William T. Ross, Jr., for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. C. Voegtlin acknowledges the financial support by the Swiss National Science Foundation for the research projects on Responsible Leadership and Social Innovation (Grant Numbers 100018_149937 and 100010_165699).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest and are not funded by a third-party.

Research Involving Human and Animal Rights

The article was not funded by any third-party organization. The article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana C. Robertson
    • 1
  • Christian Voegtlin
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thomas Maak
    • 3
  1. 1.Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department, The Wharton SchoolUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Business Administration (IBW)University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.School of ManagementUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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