Competing conceptions of justice: Moral reasoning about affirmative action in faculty hiring decisions

Elizabeth Christine Vozzola, Fordham University


For a study of moral reasoning about affirmative action, 115 full-time faculty completed the DIT, a standardized test of moral reasoning; an instrument presenting two moral dilemmas about affirmative action; and a scale asking about the relative importance of norms and self-chosen principles for making hiring decisions. The study tested whether the salient real world affirmative action dilemmas "pulled" subjects into using greater percentages of principled reasoning and examined the role of moral reasoning complexity, and use of norms versus self-chosen principles in hiring decisions. The study also tested for the possibility of racial ambivalence towards African-Americans. Results showed that manipulation of the race of a minority candidate in a dilemma about affirmative action had no effect on hiring decisions but that decisions varied as a function of the issue in the dilemma. Subjects did use greater percentages of principled reasoning when solving the affirmative action dilemmas than they did when solving hypothetical dilemmas of the DIT. The data indicated that whereas principled reasoners rely on self chosen principles about affirmative action when making hiring decisions, conventional reasons rely more on external norms. Results also suggest the importance of moral reasoning complexity for predicting a hiring decision. Thus, for this sample, differences in patterns of hiring decisions appeared to be related to competing conceptions of justice rather than to racial ambivalence.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Vozzola, Elizabeth Christine, "Competing conceptions of justice: Moral reasoning about affirmative action in faculty hiring decisions" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9425207.