Scientists have determined in a new study that people who have dual-role jobs tend to exhibit shifts in their moral integrity, without even realizing this is happening. Their moral compass is largely dictated by the actions they are undertaking at any given time.
The investigation was focused on determining how individuals make ethical or unethical decisions, based on circumstances and their moral compass. The latter is influenced by upbringing, personal experiences, and a host of other factors.
For the research, experts at the Oregon State University decided to use dual-occupation professionals, such as engineers, Army doctors and similar categories. Details of their work will be published in an upcoming issue of the esteemed Academy of Management Journal.
OSU scientists led by expert Keith Leavitt were surprised to see how people's sense of right or wrong changed depending on the situations they were in. For example, engineers changed their moral stance on a given issue when they were promoted to management positions.
In the same manner, US Army doctors tended to express different views on civilian casualties, depending on whether their last missions were as doctors or as soldiers. Their moral compass did not remain fixed regardless of what they did.
Investigators found that most dual-occupation professionals tended to change their moral stance depending on what they thought people expected of them at that particular time, PsychCentral reports.
“When people switch hats, they often switch moral compasses. People like to think they are inherently moral creatures – you either have character or you don’t,” Leavitt comments on the new conclusions.
“But our studies show that the same person may make a completely different decision based on what hat they may be wearing at the time, often without even realizing it,” the investigator goes on to say, quoted by Science Blog
Leavitt holds an appointment as an assistant professor of management in the OSU College of Business. “What we consider to be moral sometimes depends on what constituency we are answering to at that moment,” he explains.
“For a physician, a human life is priceless. But if that same physician is a managed-care administrator, some degree of moral flexibility becomes necessary to meet their obligations to stockholders,” the team leader concludes.