Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

August 2008

Publication Title

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Annual Conference


Public Relations and Advertising


Public relations practitioners and academics have been exploring ethics models, revising ethics codes, holding ethics workshops, and building ethics curricula -- all in an attempt to address the ethical lapses that continue to occur in the profession. Little of this activity, however, has included research dealing with the moral development of public relations practitioners and its connection to ethics theories, codes, and instruction. Cabot (2004) explored the integration of moral development theories into applied professional ethics by introducing the Four-Component Model of moral functioning. By breaking moral functioning into the four components of sensitivity, judgment, motivation, and character, the FCM provides a valuable research tool for applied ethics. Using the FCM, researchers can concentrate on specific aspects of moral functioning and implement corrective measures where deficiencies are found. Cabot's (2004) article focused on Component Two (moral reasoning), and presented the results the largest study to date on the moral reasoning of public relations students using the Defining Issues Test. The current study focuses on components one and four, and begins to explore the moral sensitivity and character of public relations students respectively.This study adds to the baseline data on the moral development of public relations students and, by integrating moral psychology and moral philosophy, offers a new way to approach the challenge of producing ethical public relations practitioners.