Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ)


Four ethical perspectives were considered in the construction of the ethics position questionnaire: (a) situationism, which advocates a contextual analysis of morally questionable actions; (b) absolutism, which uses inviolate, universal moral principles to formulate moral judgments; (c) subjectivism, which argues that moral judgments should depend primarily on one’s own personal values; and (d) exceptionism, which admits that exceptions must sometimes be made to moral absolutes.  The original response Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ) used was a 9-point scale, although the version presented here uses only a 5-point scale. Idealism scores are calculated by summing responses from items 1 to 10. Relativism scores are calculated by summing responses from items 11 to 20. As this scale is used for research purposes primarily, normative data are not available.


The two scales that make up the EPQ were found to have adequate internal consistency, were reliable over time, were not correlated with social desirability, and were not related to scores on the Defining Issues Test. The Relativism scale did correlate with scores on the Survey of Ethical Attitudes. When the scales were used to classify Ss into one of the ideologies, predictions concerning differences in each ideology’s moral judgment processes were supported. 

Author of Tool:

Forsyth, D

Key references:

Forsyth, D. R. 1980. A taxonomy of ethical ideologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39: 175-184. 

Primary use / Purpose:

Assesses degree of idealism and rejection of universal moral rules in favor of relativism

The Ethics Position Questionnaire

Please indicate if you agree or disagree with the following items. Each represents a commonly held opinion and there are no right or wrong answers. We are interested in your reaction to such matters of opinion. Rate your reaction to each statement by writing a number to the left of each statement where:

  • 1 = Completely disagree
  • 2 = Largely disagree
  • 3 = Moderately disagree
  • 4 = Slightly disagree
  • 5 = Neither agree nor disagree
  • 6 = Slightly agree
  • 7 = Moderately agree
  • 8 = Largely agree
  • 9 = Completely agree
  1. People should make certain that their actions never intentionally harm another even to a small
  2. Risks to another should never be tolerated, irrespective of how small the risks might
  3. The existence of potential harm to others is always wrong, irrespective of the benefits to be
  4. One should never psychologically or physically harm another
  5. One should not perform an action which might in any way threaten the dignity and welfare of another
  6. If an action could harm an innocent other, then it should not be
  7. Deciding whether or not to perform an act by balancing the positive consequences of the act against the negative consequences of the act is immoral.
  8. The dignity and welfare of the people should be the most important concern in any
  9. It is never necessary to sacrifice the welfare of
  10. Moral behaviors are actions that closely match ideals of the most “perfect”
  11. There are no ethical principles that are so important that they should be a part of any code of
  12. What is ethical varies from one situation and society to
  13. Moral standards should be seen as being individualistic; what one person considers to be moral may be judged to be immoral by another
  14. Different types of morality cannot be compared as to “rightness.”
  15. Questions of what is ethical for everyone can never be resolved since what is moral or immoral is up to the
  16. Moral standards are simply personal rules that indicate how a person should behave, and are not be be applied in making judgments of
  17. Ethical considerations in interpersonal relations are so complex that individuals should be allowed to formulate their own individual codes.
  18. Rigidly codifying an ethical position that prevents certain types of actions could stand in the way of better human relations and adjustment.
  19. No rule concerning lying can be formulated; whether a lie is permissible or not permissible totally depends upon the
  20. Whether a lie is judged to be moral or immoral depends upon the circumstances surrounding the

Idealism scores are calculated by summing responses from items 1 to 10. Relativism scores are calculated by summing responses from items 11 to 20. The original response scale used was a 9- point scale, although people often trim it back to a true Likert 5-point scale.

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