Emotions in Engineering Ethics: Emotional Ethics Cases and Students’ Moral Reasoning


Emotions are mainly viewed as detrimental to moral decision-making in engineering. Nevertheless, emotions have gained increasing attention in engineering ethics education and research over the last decade. In addition, thinking has evolved from discussing emotions in general to specific emotions like moral emotions. However, there has been little empirical research on integrating moral emotions into engineering ethics education. Engineering ethics case studies that are commonly used in practice may provide a way to include moral emotions in engineering ethics content. Evidence suggests that engineering cases with emotional content increase students’ ethical awareness and motivation. However, the relationship between emotions and moral reasoning remains understudied. Additionally, there is a debate about which moral emotions (i.e., compassion), their appropriate amounts (i.e., mild, moderate, or high), and what effect they have on moral judgment. Thus, our project, planned a 2-year-long experimental design with four stages, aims to determine whether the different levels of compassion-induced case contents influenced engineering students’ ethical decisions. The findings that we have had so far show that the induction of mild to moderate compassion did not lead to a bias in students’ moral reasoning. Results also show we included compassion in engineering ethics case studies in three ways without changing the intensity of the other emotions. The project has led to several manuscripts currently being reviewed, conference papers, and workshops. The project can potentially change how engineering ethics cases are designed and used. It may also assist in connecting engineering ethics to engineers’ hearts.


Roland Tormey: [email protected]
Nihat Kotluk: [email protected]


Start date: 01.05.2021
End date: 30.04.2023


Kotluk, N., & Tormey, R. (2022, September 19-22). Emotional empathy and engineering students’ moral reasoning [Paper presentation]. European Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference-SEFI 2022: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. http://dx.doi.org/10.5821/conference-9788412322262.1124

Kotluk, N., & Tormey, R. (2022, October). [Workshop performed]. Inducing emotions in engineering ethics case studies. The 2nd International Emotions in Engineering Education Symposium. Umeå University, Sweden.

Kotluk, N., & Tormey, R. (2023). Compassion and engineering students’ moral reasoning: The emotional experience of engineering ethics cases. Journal of Engineering Education, 1– 22. https://doi.org/10.1002/jee.20538

Kotluk, N., & Tormey, R. (2023). The emotionality of the engineering ethics cases. Manuscript in preparation.