Removing the Blinders: Increasing Students’ Awareness of Self-Perception Biases and Real-World Ethical Challenges Through an Educational Intervention

  • Kathleen A. TomlinEmail author
  • Matthew L. Metzger
  • Jill Bradley-Geist
Original Paper


Business ethics educators strive to produce graduates who not only grasp the principles of ethical decision-making, but who can apply that business ethics education when faced with real-world challenges. However, this has proven especially difficult, as good intentions do not always translate into ethical awareness and action. Complementing a behavioral ethics approach with insights from social psychology, we developed an interventional class module with both online and in-class elements aimed at increasing students’ awareness of their own susceptibility to unconscious biases and, consequently, unethical behaviors. We deployed this intervention within a problem-based learning course (137 undergraduate students), in which students completed real-world projects for actual business clients. Our results suggest that although students appeared universally aware of the importance of ethical issues in business and generally espoused intentions to act ethically, those who received the intervention were significantly more likely to recognize their own susceptibility to perpetuating unethical business behavior and to identify ethical issues specific to their real-world projects. These results have important implications for behavioral ethics pedagogy and provide a de-biasing interventional approach for bridging classroom knowledge with real-world skills.


Behavioral ethics Social psychology Psychological traps Bias blind spot Knowing-doing gap Ethics education 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen A. Tomlin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew L. Metzger
    • 2
  • Jill Bradley-Geist
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFairfield UniversityFairfieldUSA
  2. 2.College of BusinessUniversity of Colorado Colorado SpringsColorado SpringsUSA

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