U02; What is Ethical Decision Making?

To make ethical decisions, one must at least have a starting point as to what ethics is.

Ethics can be defined by incorporating various values, morals and discussing the differences between right and wrong. However, how does one decide what is ethical and what is not? The American Psychological Association (APA) has established a code of conduct (http://www.apa.org/ethics/code) that is the standard in ethical decision making for psychologist, but can these ethical principles be used by the average consumer is something to consider. Ethical decision making is up to each individual to decide for themselves, but using certain established standards as a foundation is a great way to start.


What is Ethics in the first place?

To make the jump from ethics to actual ethical decision making both individuals and society will decide what is ethical and what is not. One must be intentional about ethical decision making as it takes individuals being aware of what are ethical practices in the first place. I do not believe that the answer to various ethical situations are easy as referring to the corresponding section  of the APA that covers the topic. Although, I do believe that there are certain situations when being being deliberate about decision making and seeking a source to help can lead to certain ethical outcomes. In fact, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) has established a guideline to help with ethical decision making. The complexity of many situations requires consideration of other factors and engagement in a
creative, self-reflective, and deliberative ethical decision-making process that includes consideration of
many other factors (CPA, 2000) The decision-making process itself is very conscious and deliberate and it involves the following steps:

  1. Gather facts.
  2. Identify the ethical issues.
  3. Evaluate potential biases in the decision-making process.
  4. Develop a set of solutions.
  5. Evaluate potential benefits and harms of each solution.
  6. Choose the best solution that is in line with the 4 principles and other rules such as laws.
  7. Implement the solution.
  8. Evaluate the results of the solution.
  9. Take responsibility for the results of the solution (including reviewing/revising if needed).
  10. Act to prevent the ethical dilemma from arising again. (Penn State, 2018)

Ethical decision making must start with a  good understanding of ethics and in turn will lead to better ethical practices by individuals and organizations. Some fields have adopted code of ethics such as the APA and CPA as their standard for ethical decision making, but there are some individuals and organizations who have no standard to begin with. Ultimately, everyone will make their own decisions regardless of any standard set in place, but having systems and processes such as the CPA 10 step model will allow the opportunity for ethically sound decisions without excuse.


Academic Technolgies (2017) Integrating Ethics: ‘What Is Ethics?”. YouTube, Retrived from youtu.be/OMGHrKSUb8E.


PSY 533 (2018). L06: Other Ethics Code.  Retrieved from  https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896721/pages/l06-canadian-code-of-ethics-for-psychologists?module_item_id=23791957


Canadian Psychological Association. (2000). Canadian code of ethics for psychologists (3rd ed.). Retrieved from http://www.cpa.ca/aboutcpa/committees/ethics/codeofethics/ (Links to an external site.)

One Comment

  1. Cindy Ward February 25, 2018 at 4:33 PM #

    I also found the decision-making tool provided by the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists to be practical and useful for decisions related to work as well as personal decisions. I especially appreciate the step in which a decision-maker is asked to identify potential biases to be important.

    I also agree with you that a code of conduct does little for those who lack basic ethical standards for behavior, particularly as this related to organizational codes of conduct. I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of identifying the virtues and values desired of employees within an organization and designing a hiring process that somehow culls these out in addition to the skillset required for specific jobs. I also believe there is great importance to designing an onboarding process that allows new employees access to mentors who focus on sharing their own decision-making processes as a reflection of the virtues and values sought. This type of support brings the desired behaviors to light and makes them public, potentially impacting company culture.

    Thanks for your post.

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