Professor Catherine Sanderson on Moral Rebels [Podcast]


Post By: Adam Turteltaub

Why do people find it hard to come forward when they see behavior that is clearly wrong?  According to Catherine Sanderson, the Poler Family Professor and Chair of Psychology at Amherst College, it gets down to fundamental psychological principles. People are wired to worry about the personal consequences of their actions. In addition, when we are in a group setting we are less likely to come forward because if we see others not react we tend to think that there may not be a problem.

Another challenge: we often make the wrong assumption about what other people are thinking. For example, remember back when you were in college and a professor asked if you had any questions? You were confused, had a question, but no one else was raising their hand and you thought, “Gee, I must be the only one who is confused.” It doesn’t dawn on us that others in the class also might be afraid to show how confused they are, too.

In this podcast, Professor Sanderson, who is the author of Why We Act: Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels and will be speaking at the SCCE 2020 Compliance & Ethics Institute, explains the psychological factors that can inhibit or encourage people to speak up. She addresses the personality traits of people who are more likely to be “moral rebels”: individuals willing to point out moral failures and respond to bad behavior when others won’t. She also explains what can be done to encourage more people to come forward. Fortunately, there are skills and strategies that can inspire our inner moral rebels.

Listen in to learn more about why we need moral rebels and how to foster them in your organization. Then plan on gaining additional insights from her at the virtual Compliance & Ethics Institute.


  1. Great research and insight into behavioral ethics! So much to learn from this field about interpersonal and workplace dynamics.

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