Lesson 15 & 17: Ethics

Friday 24th January 2014


  • How can we prove or verify what is good action in complex situations;
  • To what extent are knowledge claims in ethics open to bias and other limitations;
  • What are the strengths and limitations of emotion and reason when deciding on courses of action.


What is the moral relativism?

  • is the idea that moral principles have no objective standard
  • is the individual moral practice where personal and situational encounters supposedly dictate the correct moral position. This may differ from one’s view of what is morally correct to another’s view despite looking at the same thing/being in the same scenario
  • Relativism can be described with the slogan= “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”


How to judge what is right and wrong? Do we judge…

  • By what is stated in the Law?
  • By what we’ve been taught by our parents/teachers/role models?
  • By what we’ve experienced?
  • By what we’ve seen first hand?

How do we act on what we think is right or wrong? What drives us to act: the motives VS the consequences

Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment

More useful links:

School ToK blog – Ethics

Ethics tok.net


Lesson 16: Cognitive bias

What is bias?

Bias is the inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair. Cognitive bias is when one makes a bias through the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

Types of cognitive biases to discuss in ToK:

Introspection illusion, prejudice, confirmation bias, in attentional blindness, hindsight bias, availability bias, affect heuristic, the halo effect, sunk cost fallacy, the just world fallacy and attribution bias.

Today, I will be discussing about Attribution bias:

Attribution is the inferences that people make about the causes of events or behaviours. Attribution bias is when people have a tendency to assume or guess that a person’s actions or their results depend on what ‘kind’ of person that person is rather than on the social and environmental forces influencing the person.

Over the course of a typical day a person probably makes numerous attributions about their own behavior as well as that of the people around them. This act may be either a conscious or unconscious act. Even though one may be conscious of making attributions about themselves or others, they are still most likely to continue doing so.

Example of attribution bias:

The most typical example of attribution bias is when you get a poor grade on a quiz, you might blame the teacher for not adequately explaining the material, completely dismissing the fact that you didn’t study as much as you should or could have. However, when a classmate gets a great grade on that same quiz, you might attribute their good performance to luck, neglecting the fact that they most likely studied a lot for that test.

Pros on attribution bias:

  • Raises self esteem

Cons on attribution bias:

  • Self- serving



The psychology of attribution