The Ethical Executive: Becoming Aware of the Root Causes of Unethical Behavior: 45 Psychological Traps That Every One of Us Falls Prey To

By Robert Hoyk; Paul Hersey | Go to book overview
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TRAP 16 :
DECISION SCHEMAS

AS MENTIONED, in the 1970s the Ford Motor company pushed through the production of the Pinto compact, all the while knowing that the gas tank was defective. Many deaths and severe burn injuries resulted from this unethical action.

Dennis Gioia was Ford’s field recall coordinator in 1973. Gioia was in a position within the Ford Motor company to influence the recall of the Pinto. He failed to do so. In an article in the Journal of Business Ethics, he wrote, “My own schematized (scripted) knowledge influenced me to perceive recall issues in terms of the prevailing decision environment and to unconsciously overlook key features of the Pinto case, mainly because they did not fit an existing script.”1

Creating schemas (or scripts) is a way our brains organize information. A “schema” is a unit of past information that gives us rules and expectations about a particular theme. We have schemas for everything. We have schemas within schemas. An example of a schema is the “movie schema.” When a friend says, “Let’s go to the movies,” you know exactly what to do and to expect: you get into a car, drive to a movie theater, park, buy tickets, maybe buy some popcorn, go into a large dark room, sit down and watch a movie for about two hours.

It is said that the anthropologist Margaret Mead presented a wooden chair to a tribal chief who had never seen a chair before. He

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