Morally Responsible Decision Making in Networked Military Operations

  • Christine Boshuijzen-van BurkenEmail author
  • Bart van Bezooijen


Introducing responsible innovations on the battlefield requires a rethinking of social and psychological aspects of moral decision making on the battlefield, and in particular, including how these aspects are influenced by technology. In this chapter, the social aspects of moral decision making are accounted for in terms of the normative practices in which soldiers do their jobs. Soldiers on the battlefield are embedded in a very specific structure, and are expected to act according to rules, norms and procedures. Their actions are inspired by a certain worldview, which influences the way in which the rules, norms and procedures are interpreted. Technology, especially ICT, connects different practices on the battlefield, thereby creating a network of different (sub-)practices. This may cause a blurring or clashing of different normative practices, which affects moral decision making. In this chapter, Remotely Piloted Aircrafts (RPAs) are used as a case in point for technologically mediated moral decision making. The normative practice model gives insights in the social aspect of decision making in networked missions, but it does not pay attention to the role of the individual soldier in an in-depth way. Therefore an addition is needed, which focusses on the individual soldiers themselves. For the individual level, we take the psychological component of moral decision making and explain how this aspect is affected by technology. The model of normative practices is thus informed by insights from empirical psychology. Moral psychologists have empirically investigated how certain cues influence moral decision making. Some of the cues can be effectuated through technology. Social cognitive theory, as developed by Bandura (Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1986), (Personality and Social Psychology Review 3(3):193–209, 1999) and moral intensity theory developed by Jones (Academy of Management Review 16(2):366–395, 1991) are theories that explain moral decision making mechanisms in terms of respectively moral (dis)engagement mechanisms and the perceived moral intensity of a situation. From both theories we infer how visual data sharing technologies can increase or decrease morally appropriate decision making in networked enabled operations.


Moral decision making Normative practices Network enabled operations Remotely piloted aircrafts (RPAs) Social cognitive theory Moral intensity theory 



This article was written by the authors as part of the research program ‘Moral fitness of military personnel in a networked operation environment’, which is supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) under grant number 313-99-110.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Boshuijzen-van Burken
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bart van Bezooijen
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy and Ethics, School of Innovation SciencesEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands

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