Ethics Position Questionnaire

Forsyth, D. R. (1980). A taxonomy of ethical ideologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39(1):175–84.

Comments: The 20-item Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ) measures the extent to which people espouse one of the following four ethical ideologies (situationism, absolutism, subjectivism, and exceptionism). The EPQ contains two subscales: one assesses idealism and the other relativism.

Sample: A pilot study of the 55-item EPQ was conducted with 65 students from introductory psychology courses. Each student’s mean idealism and relativism score was calculated and item-to-scale mean correlations were computed. Fifty-six other students completed the revised 27-item EPQ and the Edwards’ Social Desirability Scale. Additional groups of introductory psychology students completed revisions of the EPQ until the sixth and final version was accepted.

Reliability: Information is provided about test-retest reliability. The alpha coefficient (Cronbach) for the idealism sub- scale is 0.80 and 0.73 for the relativism subscale.

Validity: Information is provided about concurrent, discriminant, and predictive validity.

Factor Analysis: Principal components factor analysis with an orthogonal varimax rotation was employed. The item and factor analysis lead to the inclusion of 14 items for the idealism subscale and 13 items for the relativism subscale. Definitions of Terms: Situationism espouses a contextual analysis of morally questionable actions. Absolutism utilizes inviolate, universal moral principles to formulate moral judgments. Subjectivism maintains that moral judgments should depend primarily on one’s own personal values. Exceptionism states that exceptions must sometimes be made

to moral absolutes.

Data Analysis: Factor analysis was conducted as well as item analyses. In addition, inter scale correlations were calculated to measure the orthogonality of the two subscales. Correlates of the EPQ scales are presented. Interitem correlations, item-to-total correlations, item means, item standard deviations and item test-retest reliabilities for all items are available from the author.


Hogan, R. A. (1970). A dimension of moral judgment. Journal of Clinical and Counseling Psychology 35:205–12. Kohlberg, L. (1968). The child as a moral philosopher. Psychology Today 2(4):25–30.

Rest, J. R., et al. (1974). Judging the important issues in moral dilemmas—An objective measure of development. Developmental Psychology 10:491–501.

Schlenker, B. R., and Forsyth, D. R. (1977). On the ethics of psychological research. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 13:369–96.

Sharp, F. C. (1898). An objective study of some moral judgments. American Journal of Psychology 9:198–234.

Ethics Position Questionnaire

1. People should make certain that their actions never intentionally harm others even to a small degree.
2. Risks to another should never be tolerated, irrespective of how small the risks might be.
3. The existence of potential harm to others is always wrong, irrespective of the benefits to be gained.
4. One should never psychologically or physically harm another person.
5. One should not perform an action which might in any way threaten the dignity and welfare of another individual.
6. If an action could harm an innocent other, then it should not be done.
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 people should be the most important concern in any society.
9. It is never necessary to sacrifice the welfare of others.
10. Moral behaviors are actions that closely match ideals of the most “perfect” action.
11. There are no ethical principles that are so important that they should be part of any code of ethics.
12. What is ethical varies from one situation and society to another.
13. Moral standards should be seen as being individualistic; what one person considers to be moral may be judged to be immoral by another person.
14. Different types of moralities 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 indi- vidual.
16. Moral standards are simply personal rules which indicate how a person should behave, and are not to be applied in making judgments of others.
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 totally depends on the situation.
20. Whether a lie is judged to be moral or immoral depends upon the circumstances surrounding the action.

Scoring: Completely disagree = 1; Largely disagree = 2; Moderately disagree = 3; Slightly disagree = 4; Neither agree nor disagree = 5; Slightly agree = 6; Moderately agree = 7; Largely agree = 8; and Completely agree = 9. The idealism score is the mean of items 1 through 10. The relativism score is the mean of items 11–20.