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Decision Processes in Military Moral Dilemmas: The Role of Moral Intensity and Moral Judgment

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Given the unique moral responsibility and obligations of military duty, understanding the nature and factors governing the moral decision making process and behaviour of military personnel, especially during operations, is of paramount importance. In the current study, we apply the seminal moral and ethical decision making models of Rest 1986 and Jones 1991 to explore the moral decision making process of 64 participants 34 women and 30 men who participated in an on-line survey at the Center for Decision Sciences at Columbia University. Following the presentation of each of two military moral dilemmas drawn from the operational experiences of senior Canadian Forces CF commanders and two potential responses to that dilemma, the participants responded to a series of questions assessing moral awareness, intensity, and judgment for each of the response options. They also selected a preferred response option for each military moral dilemma. Our results showed that they were no more likely to choose one response option over the other in either moral dilemma. The results of regression analyses also showed that differences in how the participants perceived one option as compared to the other on the moral intensity variables predicted how they judged its morality relative to that of the other option. Finally, the results of hierarchical regression analyses indicated that the differences in moral intensity ratings and judgment scores were significant predictors of the preferred responses to the moral dilemmas, although the differences in moral judgment scores were more consistent predictors of choice than were the differences in intensity ratings. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these results and provide suggestions for future research in the area.

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  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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