Do Ethics Classes Influence Student Behavior?

Eric Schwitzgebel

in draft

Does university-level ethics instruction influence studentsí practical behavior? Little direct empirical work has been done on this question. I briefly review the existing data: two studies on honesty in laboratory settings and two re-analyzable economics studies on donation to student charities. Although these data suggest no overall effect of ethics instruction on moral behavior, the research is so limited that it is difficult to draw any conclusion. I then turn to the somewhat larger literature that examines the influence of ethics classes on studentsí self-reported moral attitudes. This literature is so flawed that, again, it is difficult to draw any conclusion, but the most reasonable interpretation appears to be that ethics instruction has at most a small influence on student attitudes.

 

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