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Moral and Ethical Decision Making in Canadian Forces Operations

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Contract rept.

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The purpose of this study was to generate first hand accounts of moral and ethical dilemmas that Canadian Forces CF personnel faced in operations in an effort to promote greater understanding of the personal, situational and contextual factors that comprise dilemma situations, as well as understanding the process of ethical decision making. A second goal was to elicit realistic exemplar scenarios for experimentation purposes. Fifteen currently serving and retired senior officers in the CF were interviewed from 19 May 2004 to 3 March 2005 using an unobtrusive conversational protocol. Participants were encouraged to speak freely and openly about moral and ethical dilemmas that they faced in operations, in order to document the ethical decision making process and the factors that influence it in operational contexts. Moral and ethical decision making was shown to be influenced by a number of factors not strongly emphasized in existing accounts of ethical decision making. These influences stemmed from the person e.g. self-identity, values and attitudes, as well as several situational e.g. moral intensity and contextual factors e.g. rules of engagement and organizational culture. Results also showed that moral and ethical decision making was not merely a linear, rational process, but a complex and multi-determined one, in which reason, emotion and intuition often worked together to determine ethical decision making. In addition, participant accounts suggested that ethical decisions are often simultaneously influenced by issues of self-identity in relation to contextual factors such as social norms and organizational culture. Participant descriptions, therefore, point out the significance of ones social role and self-identities in shaping and guiding the moral and ethical decision making process.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology

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