Are You Actually Ethical?

Olivia Cantor

You saw a guy's wallet dislodge from his back pocket; it fell to the ground without him noticing it. What will you do?

During a visit, your doctor only allows you to talk for five minutes, but you still need ask them about something. Your doctor ends the session anyway. Is this ethical?

The newbie cafe cashier gave you excess change. How will you react?

A cousin works as a lawyer on a controversial case. Your relatives urge him to share private details, which he does. Is this unethical?

In a line to buy movie tickets, the teenager ahead of you answers a call and steps out of the line. Will you step ahead or leave it vacant for the teen?

You find a wad of money on the sidewalk next to a garbage bin, and no one's claiming it. Will you pick it up and pocket it?

For your gender's restroom, there's a long queue. But there's none for the separate PWD (people with disabilities) one. Will you use that instead, even if you're not a PWD?

Five steps ahead of you, someone's waiting for a taxi, too. But when they wave for one, it stops in front of you. Will you get in, or will you let the other person have it?

A convenience store clerk tells you, "Sorry, we don't have enough coins right now. I'm short a few cents for your change. Is that OK?" What's your reply?

A techie friend hacked the Wi-Fi password of your neighbor and gave it to you. Will you mooch the "free Wi-Fi" connection?

In your office, do you purposely ask for two pens so you can take one home?

During a job application, you accidentally discover that a friend who's more qualified is also applying for the same position. Will you do something about this?

You found out that your favorite band's concert date is the same day you promised to report to work for a special project. What will you do?

A neighbor broke an item they borrowed from you. Instead of confessing, they bought a new one to replace it – but you noticed the difference. Do you consider this an ethical move?

A student is rushing to submit a paper and copies from their roommate's paper to save time. Ethical or not?

The grocery bagger accidentally switched your bag with another customer who purchased more expensive items than you. What's the proper thing to do here?

A slow driver taking their time to park their car got cut off by someone else who suddenly swerved in and took their spot. Ethical or not?

The fast-food server gave you the two-piece chicken meal, but you only ordered the cheaper one-piece meal. What will you do?

You and a friend discussed an idea, then you turned it into an article and had it published. Your friend suddenly wants credit as "co-author," even though she didn't write a word; she says it was partly her idea. Your thoughts?

Two people ahead of you discovered that the ATM dispenses extra bills for some reason; they just walked away with the money. Will you do the same?

A newly hired friend boasted of her employee discount privilege. Another friend dropped by the store to use this discount every single day. Is this right?

Your roommate deliberately made the pizza delivery guy wait, because they have a policy of giving the food for free if they arrive beyond their allotted delivery time. What's your reaction?

Certain employees get overtime pay, while others don't. The supervisor made them all work overtime one day for a rush project. Is this ethical?

You and your team worked hard together on a project for a competition, but only you got cited when it won. What's your reaction?

A professor is up for tenure, but colleagues don't like the person. They force the prof to meet extra requirements to make the application hard. Is this ethical to you?

A customer swiftly pockets a small item at the supermarket when the staff gets distracted by another customer. Ethical or not?

A certain mall hires people temporarily, then abruptly ends their contracts when they're supposed to get permanent employment. Do you consider this unethical?

Your sibling used an unknown band's music without permission for your YouTube video. When they emailed you to tell you that's unethical, what's your reply?

In a smoking area, you saw how a smoker accidentally burned the hair of someone beside them with their lit cigarette; the victim didn't notice. The smoker left the scene immediately. Ethical or not?

A prolific veteran writer got fired by a magazine and replaced with two new graduates given cheaper salaries. Ethical or not?

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Image: Tetra Images / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Talking about ethics means we have to include behavior and judgment calls. Do we all have the same definitions when it comes to this intriguing topic? Probably not.

To level off, the dictionary defines "ethical" as "conforming to accepted standards of conduct." That's the working definition when we're dealing with daily actions. Ethics work in tandem with expected behavior and personal judgment. Ethics are all about how we behave and how we regard the behavior of others.

Sometimes ethics and the law intersect. Ever heard of the term "code of conduct," used in fields like journalism or medicine? It's an outline of "do's and don'ts" in the practice of those professions. It's the set of actions that professionals need to abide by. Even if we're not all journalists or medical professionals, we live and work following our specific codes of conduct.

How we respond to stimuli gives others a clue about our ethical standards. Do we buck the system or do we "color within the lines," as they say? There's no hard and fast rule here. Different people will do different things, and yes, differences arise even when there is a code of conduct to follow.

Ready to see where you fall on the ethics scale? Take this probing quiz and find out! 

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