Measuring dental students' ethical sensitivity.

M. J. Bebeau, J. R. Rest, C. M. Yamoor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


This paper describes the development of stimulus materials and scoring procedures to measure an individual's ability to recognize the ethical issues often hidden within the dentist's professional problems. The importance of this ability is discussed as it relates to other abilities thought to be necessary conditions for ethical or moral behavior. Dental students completed the ethical sensitivity test and Rest's test of moral reasoning. The sensitivity test requires transcribing verbal responses to audio dramas, a technique that: (1) elicits sufficient data for making inferences about ethical sensitivity, (2) produces good interjudge agreement and interrater reliability, and (3) measures variability in student performance. Data indicate high internal consistency compared with previous efforts to measure components of sensitivity (e.g., empathy), acceptable test-retest reliability for a subsample. and the distinctiveness of sensitivity and reasoning scores. The results have broad application for the teaching of ethics and suggest new directions for the study of professional socialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1985


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