Lack of Sleep Harms Moral Awareness

October 12, 2014 3:11 PM

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Lack of Sleep Harms Moral Awareness

Most people think they are ethical. But ethical transgressions happen frequently. Researchers ask the question of why this occurs and pursue scientific inquiries designed to provide answers. One line of inquiry focuses on moral awareness. My colleague Scott Reynolds, a prolific ethics researcher here at the University of Washington, defines moral awareness as a person's determination that a situation contains moral content and legitimately can be considered from a moral point of view. Research indicates that without moral awareness, people are unlikely to effectively engage in moral judgment or accurately judge the morality of others. In other words, without awareness that there is a moral component to a given decision or action, people will proceed without engaging in a thorough and purposeful decision process about that morality. And without moral awareness, people will not recognize unethical behaviors engaged by other people as unethical.

Recent research indicates that moral awareness is dynamic over time, such that the same individual can be high in moral awareness at one point in time and low at another point in time. Part of this is based on how much energy and self-control the individual has at a given moment. My colleagues (Bria...

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