EthicalSystems.org, which we have discussed many times here at BLE, is a must-read for anyone interested in behavioral ethics. Put it on your favorites list, add it to your browser, make a sticky note reminding yourself to visit often — in other words, do what you can to be a regular visitor to this site. You won’t be sorry.
If you need more of a nudge (!), here is a sampling of three relevant recent posts from the EthicalSystems.org blog:
- Framing the Language of Business: This post, which discusses Scott Killingsworth’s excellent article on the power of framing in the business context, has clear implications for the legal community. Just as the “business as war” frame can lead to ethical lapses, Killingsworth’s article provides a sober warning against the excesses that framing “litigation as war” can produce.
- Testing, Testing: Drawing Conclusions From Test Environments: This post focuses on a recent work by Professor Donald Langevoort of Georgetown Law School, who was one of the first scholars to write about behavioral legal ethics (well before we had a name for it), beginning with his 1993 article, Where Were the Lawyers? A Behavioral Inquiry Into Lawyers’ Responsibility for Clients’ Fraud. In his recent work, Prof. Langevoort describes the state of empirical research and its application in the compliance field, but his discussion of behavioral science has wide-ranging application for virtually any area of ethical decision-making.
- An Executive Order Promoting Behavioral Science: This post provides a rich description of the importance of President Obama’s recent executive order mandating that federal agencies look for ways to apply the insights from behavioral science to promote public policy in executive branch decision-making. Not that there was much doubt, but behavioral science has arrived — front and center — in policy discussions, now and for the future.
As anyone who studies behavioral ethics knows or quickly learns, the subject contains a vast amount of material — much of which is primary research. As a result, it is useful to find sources to help categorize the literature of the field. For those interested in the behavioral aspects of legal ethics, Behavioral Legal Ethics by Jennifer Robbennolt and Jean Sternlight stands out as one of the most important. In addition, here are some other resources that I’ve found very useful:
(1) “Behavioral Ethics: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Moral Judgment and Dishonesty” by Max Bazerman & Francesca Gino. This article, by two of the leading researchers in the field, provides an excellent overview of the subject. Particularly helpful is their description of the types of influences that can produce intentional dishonesty compared to those that can produce unintentional dishonesty (note: Max Bazerman’s book, Blind Spots (co-authored with Ann Tenbrunsel), provides one of the most accessible overviews of the field).
(2) “Ethically Adrift: How Others Pull Our Moral Compass from True North, and How We Can Fix It” by Celia Moore and Francesca Gino. This article, again by leading researchers, situates the discussion of behavioral ethics inside a larger description of the many forces that can cause unethical misconduct inside organizations. The comparison of individual cognitive limitations and social influences that can produce unethical decision-making is particularly helpful.
(3) “Behavioral Ethics Meets Behavioral Law and Economics.” This article, by Yuval Feldman from Bar-Ilan University (who has written extensively about the intersection of behavioral science and law), is very useful in describing the complexity, nuance and areas of disagreement in behavioral ethics literature. It also nicely maps the different sources of research on, and relationship between, behavioral ethics and behavioral law and economics.
If anyone else has found other sources that provide useful overviews of the field, please share. Thanks.