Ethicists’ and Non-Ethicists’ Responsiveness to Student Emails: 
Relationships among Expressed Normative Attitude, Self-Described Behavior, and Experimentally Observed Behavior

Metaphilosophy, 44 (2013), 350-371.

Joshua Rust and Eric Schwitzgebel

Do professional ethicists behave any morally better than do other professors? Do they show any greater consistency between their normative attitudes and their behavior? In response to a survey question, a large majority of professors (83% of ethicists, 83% of non-ethicist philosophers, and 85% of non-philosophers) expressed the view that “not consistently responding to student emails” is morally bad. A similarly large majority of professors claimed to respond to at least 95% of student emails. We sent these professors, and others, three emails designed to look like queries from students. Ethicists’ email response rates were within chance of the other two groups’. Expressed normative view correlated with self-estimated rate of email responsiveness, especially among the ethicists. However, empirically measured email responsiveness was at best weakly correlated with self-estimated email responsiveness; and professors’ expressed normative attitude was not significantly correlated with empirically measured email responsiveness for any of the three groups.

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