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Titel: Classical ethical positions and their relevance in justifying behavior: A model of prescriptive attribution.
Autor(en): Witte, E.H.
Erscheinungsdatum: 2002
Serie/Report Nr.: Hamburger Forschungsberichte zur Sozialpsychologie;42
Zusammenfassung: This paper separates empirical research on ethics from classical research on morality and relates it to other central questions of social psychology and sociology, e.g., values, culture, justice, attribution. In addition, reference is made to some founding studies of ethical research and its historical development. Based on this line of tradition the development of prescriptive attribution research is introduced, which concentrates on the justification of actions by weighting the importance of the four classical ethical positions, hedonism, intuitionism, utilitarianism and deontology, as to why it was "good' or "right" that an action is performed. Six empirical studies are discussed, the first, using a questionnaire based on the four positions reveals marked differences in the justifications given by East and West German workers regarding their work performance. The East Germans tend more towards collectivism, weighting the utilitarian and deontological positions more highly. The second study makes use of a content analytical technique, and concentrates on the difference between the justifications of various professional groups. Economists, doctors and lawyers are asked to justify the introduction of a human germ-cell therapy. Economists are more hedonistic than the other two professional groups, who are more utilitarian and deontological. The third study, based on a questionnaire, compares East and West German opinion as to whether it is right to remain in a close partnership (marriage) with interpersonal conflicts or whether it is right to dissolve the relationship. In this study, too, the justifications based on utilitarianism and deontology are given precedence by East German subjects, whereas hedonism is more important for West German respondents. After this regional comparison, the fourth study compares the justifications of a more collectivist (ROK) with a more individualistic culture (Germany). Here the differences reveal a greater importance of consequentialism (hedonism, utilitarianism) in the individualistic culture (Germany) and a greater weighting of the rule-directed position (deontology) in the collectivist culture (ROK) . No differences are apparent regarding the intuitionist position. The fifth and sixth studies use a content analytic approach to investigate the justifications of social behavior found in newspapers and prescriptions in the ethical standards of scientific societies. This resulted in an inverse relation between utilitarian and deontological arguments: 2 vs. 1 in newspapers and 1 vs. 2 in ethical standards. To summarize, one could say that a deeper understanding of explanations leads towards the classical descriptive attribution theories, whilst a deeper understanding of the energizing forces behind an action lead towards the concept of empirical prescriptive attribution research as proposed here.
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