The Assessment of Differing Presentation Stimuli on Professional Ethics Judgments of Counselors-in-training

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

Syracuse University

Cedarville University School or Department


First Advisor

Richard E. Pearson


Counselors, counseling, ethics, presentation stimuli, counselors-in-training


The researcher investigated the impact which three presentation stimuli had on the professional ethics judgments of graduate counseling students. A test of ethical discrimination [based on the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association (ACA), American Psychological Association (APA), and Association of Social Workers (ASW)] was used. The test was administered to graduate counseling students who were in the final weeks of their graduate courses in the ethics of counseling.

In particular, research participants (N = 60) were secured from four (4) colleges/universities. Students were enrolled in master's-level counseling ethics courses. They were randomly assigned into one of three groups: Pencil & Paper, Video, and Role Play. Participants in each group were given the same test of ethical discrimination, but took the test under varying circumstances. The Pencil & Paper group was given a straightforward test, as might typically be experienced in an ethics course. The Video group took the same test, but did so in the context of seeing ethical dilemmas portrayed in a video generated specifically for the present study. The Role Play group took the same test, but did so in the context of role playing with a trained actress--acting out the same scenario that the Video group observed on the video tape.

The results showed a significant difference in mean scores between the Video and Role Play groups at the p < .10 level. Specifically, the Role Play group made the most errors, followed by the Pencil & Paper group, while the Video group made the fewest errors in ethical discrimination.

Thus, a curvilinear relationship emerged relative to cognitive knowledge of counseling ethics and application of that knowledge in real-to-life situations. Making accurate ethical decisions may be influenced by the context in which decisions are made. Of particular note is that students may experience a pressure-of-the moment phenomenon that adversely affects acting correctly on the information they have internalized.