Empathy and ethical decision-making in organizations : Neuroethical perspectives

Research team

Joé T. Martineau, PhD (HEC Montréal, Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit); Eric Racine, PhD (Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit, Université de Montréal, McGill University)


Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQ-SC)

Recent neuroscience research has shed light on the phenomenon of empathy and the importance of emotions in ethical decision-making. For instance, openness and sensitivity to the emotions of others allow for a richer interpretation of complex situations. However, in the management and business ethics literature, the vast majority of studies on ethical decision-making are based on a cognitivist or rationalist perspective, and some argue that it is now time to further investigate the influence emotions in these processes. Consequently, our research aims to assess the influence of managers’ empathy on their decision-making and ethical reflection.

Incorporating methods and research results from the fields of psychology, management science and neuroscience, our research specifically seeks to:


  1. identify if and how recent neuroscience research on empathy allows us to shed new light on ethical decision-making and reflection in organizations;
  2. to study the link between managers’ level of empathy and their preferences for different ways of thinking and management practices; and
  3. to examine the implications of empathy for the ethical management of organizations.

Martineau, J. T., & Racine, E. (2017). Interdisciplinary perspectives on the role and significance of empathy in business ethics. Academy of Management Proceedings, 16(1), 16437.

Martineau, J. T., & Racine, E. (2015). À la frontière des neurosciences et de la gestion des organisations. Gestion HEC Montréal, 40(2), 116.