Moral Development

Moral Development
I. The Role of Cognitive Development
A. Concrete Operations
B. Formal Operations
C. Postformal Operations
D. Consider also: self-regulation skills
“The Case of Heinz and the Druggist”
Mr. Heinz's wife is dying. There is one
drug that will save her life but it is
very expensive. The druggist will not
lower the price so that Mr. Heinz can
buy it to save his wife's life.
What should he do?
More importantly, why?
II. Kohlberg’
Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral
Q: Why do some people feel they must obey the letter of
the law while others believe that there is a higher law?
Most countries, including the United States,
are founded through illegal acts of rebellion or
In order to answer this question, Kohlberg began
to look at the ways in which people develop
•MR progresses in stages, with each stage being
more advanced than the previous one.
•More concerned w/ process of reasoning than the
outcome or content.
A. Level 1: Preconventional Reasoning
Based on perceptions of external rewards &
1. Stage 1: Punishment-Obedience Orientation
Avoid (physical) punishment
High school example: One middle school teacher has
latecomers do pushups--50 of them--in front of the class.
2. Stage 2: Personal Reward Orientation
“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”
High school example: A group of high school students
involved in a cooperative learning activity get upset
because one of their group members is repeatedly absent
and did not do any work.
B. Level 2: Conventional Reasoning
Less egocentric. Value seen in conforming to
expectations established by authority/tradition.
Stage 3: Interpersonal concordance orientation “Good boy/nice girl” Orientation
In an inner city high school student's journal, she wrote
"I am going to work harder in school so I won't let you
down because if you think I can make it then I can
make it"
Stage 4: Social systems orientation
“Law and Order”
"Move carefully in the halls". This rule reinforces the
fundamental purpose of government to protect the
health and welfare of its citizens
C. Level 3: Postconventional Reasoning
Based on individual’s own views of objective
universal principles rather than others’
Stage 5: Community rights & individual
rights orientation - Social Contract Orientation
Example for a handout in a high school class: "Please
remember that this is your room and your class. The
behavior and participation of each person will shape
the type of learning that will occur. Since one person's
behavior affects everyone else, I request that everyone
in the class be responsible for classroom management.
To ensure that our rights are protected and upheld,
the following laws have been established for this
Stage 6: Universal ethical principles
An orientation toward universal ethical
principles of justice, reciprocity, equality,
and respect
Very rare. Examples: Gandhi, Mother Theresa,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
High school teacher: "I will not tolerate any
racial, ethnic, or sexual slurs in this classroom.
It is not fair to erase someone's face. In this
room, everyone is entitled to equal dignity as a
human being.”
III. Alternative Views
A. Gilligan’s Gender Critique
Criticized Kohlberg’s theory as biased
against women, who take a care
orientation rather than a justice
Not supported by most research.
B. Damon’s Moral Identity Approach
How important is ethical behavior to the
person’s sense of self?
C. Shweder’s Cultural Approach
•Criticized Kohlberg’s approach as
Western biased.
•In many cultures following tradition is
held in higher esteem than individualized
moral codes.
Sees three types of ethics underlying moral
1. Ethic of autonomy: Individual is
primary ethical authority & can do as
he/she pleases as long as not hurting others.
2. Ethic of community.
Responsibilities of roles in the community
take precedence.
3. Ethic of divinity. Individual is
subject to rules of devine authority.
IV. Other Influences on Moral Behavior
A. Moral standards/values (arrived at
via moral reasoning)
B. Cohesion of self
(e.g., Ted Haggard)
C. SelfSelf-Regulation
D. Sensitivity to reward & punishment
E. Justification/rationalization of
emotional response (MRI studies)