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Hartmann, D. J., & McLaughlin, O. (2018). Heuristic Patterns of Ethical Decision Making. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 13(5), 561–572. https://doi.org/10.1177/1556264618800208


This article describes the context of ethical decision making in research and suggests that direct attention to the ways in which decisions are actually made in such environments is needed. A decision-making model based on the literature on heuristic processing is proposed and is followed by a review of the method, data, and results of the authors’ research on this model. The implications of the research are developed, and a research agenda is outlined. Key findings were that competent actors do indeed process ethics problems heuristically and in ways that interweave intuitive, affective, and more rational phases. This processing does not typically follow a simple progressive pattern but evidences a sort of trial-and-error processing that is consistent with the logic of heuristic processing more generally. Finally, while diverse, participant-level processing attempts appear to follow patterns which are associated with the experience and training of the actors.