Business Ethics: The Promise of Neuroscience

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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).

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Correspondence to Christian Voegtlin.

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Robertson, D.C., Voegtlin, C. & Maak, T. Business Ethics: The Promise of Neuroscience. J Bus Ethics 144, 679–697 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3312-6

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Keywords

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