The Relations between Ethical Reasoning and Moral Intuitions among Engineering Students in China

Rockwell Franklin Clancy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Empirical research in engineering ethics has tended to assess the ethical reasoning abilities of students in predominately WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) countries. However, it is not clear that ethical judgments or behaviors are exclusively or primarily the result of ethical reasoning, or that conclusions based on WEIRD samples would be true of different populations. To address these issues, a study was conducted examining 1. the relation between ethical reasoning and moral intuitions among engineering students in China, and 2. the effects of ethics education on ethical reasoning and moral intuitions. To do so, engineering students at a US-Chinese educational institute in Shanghai, China completed the ESIT (Engineering and Science Issues Test) and MFQ (Moral Foundations Questionnaire) before and after a course on global engineering ethics. The ESIT uses two measures of ethical reasoning: The P score assesses the prevalence of postconventional reasoning, while the N2 score measures the amount of postconventional relative to preconventional reasoning. The MFQ assesses moral intuitions through the importance participants place on care, fairness, authority, loyalty, and sanctity in answering questions about right and wrong, and their relative levels of agreement regarding numerous statements with moral contents. Results indicate that 1. ethical reasoning is positively related to an emphasis on care and fairness 2. ethics education results in significantly higher levels of ethical reasoning, as well as a greater concern with fairness and loyalty. The educational and professional implications of these results are discussed, as well as shortcomings of the current study and directions for future work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 26 Jul 202129 Jul 2021


  • (Global) engineering ethics
  • China
  • Cross-cultural
  • Ethical reasoning
  • Moral foundations theory
  • Non-WEIRD


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