Early Notions of Morality
The earliest ideas surrounding the concept of 'morality' was rooted in philosophy. For example, Aristotle and Plato researched the ways people make decisions related to morality. This early relationship between philosophy and morality resulted in the field of moral psychology, which is the exploration of moral development in the context of both philosophy and psychology.

All of this information is from from the HLD: Chapter 16 - Is Development a Consequence of Only Environment or Biology?
‍‍and HLD: Chapter 16 - Is this an Illusion? (unless otherwise cited)

Early psychologists such as Freud and Skinner posed contrasting views of morality. Freud, on one hand, based his view of morality in religion. He argued ‍‍that while religion imposes moral prohibitions or guidelines (e.g., do not kill, do not commit adultery) on humans, these prohibitions actually arise from society and aim to protect people from their instinctual aggressive drives. He thought these social mores are instilled at a very young age, with the resolution of ‍conflict.‍ In terms of early development, he thought that children acquire social prohibitions through adults and older children. These are handed down unconsciously, rather than consciously. On the other hand, Skinner viewed morality simply as a process for acquiring group values or standards. Most often, acquiring moral knowledge was done through various conditioning processes.

morality.jpgIn addition to psychologists, anthropologists conducted some of the first studies of morality around the world. In these early studies of morality, anthropologists argued against W‍‍estern conclusio‍ns regarding morality (e.g., Freud and Skinner's above conclusions)‍‍. Researchers such as Ruth Benedict, Frans Boas, and Margaret Mead chastised Western researchers for not respecting or tolerating differences in morality that compared systems to Western systems. These early researchers held the Western system as "ideal" or the definition of "civilization" (p. 556). Early views focused solely on the role of the environment in moral development.

By the last 1900s, biological explanations of the development of morality emerged. These theories are based on the belief that emotionally-based brain functioning determines moral choices ‍(p. 556).‍ In its current form, biological theories tend to take the form of either 1) emotionally based brain functions determine moral choices or 2) humans have some type of innate, pre-built universal moral 'grammar.'brain.jpg

Morality Research/Theory Pioneers
Other core morality researchers posed additional tenets of morality formation. The key figures in this research line include Piaget (1947), Kohlberg (1969), Baldwin (1906), and Werner (1957). The below point highlight their major conclusions.

First, thoughts and emotions are interdependent parts of the whole. In summarizing, Turiel (2010) writes, "Emotions are not so powerful and rationality (thinking) so weak that emotions dominate rationality (p. 557)." ‍‍This indicates that while emotional reactions are a central tenet of moral reasoning, they do not always dominate rational reasoning in making moral decisions. Rather, emotional appraisals are components of reasoning that take others' actions, as well as one's own, into account in making moral decisions. Further, researchers suggested that the emotions involved in moral decisions are mostly positive emotions, such as sympathy, empathy, respect.

‍‍Common Methodology Emplo‍yed‍‍
Below are two common methodologies employed when studying morality.
This first methodology presents the below vignette to participants, and participants are asked a series of structured questions about whether the character should have taken the course of action he did. The accompanying video demonstrates the various stages of Kohlbger's model of morality development, as demonstrated when asked the Heinz Dilemma.
1. Heinz and the Drug Dilemma (Kohlberg, 1969)

"In Europe, a woman was near death from a special type of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging 10 times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but get could only get together about $1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying, and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug for his wife.
‍‍Should Heinz have done that? Why or why not?‍‍

2. Turiel (2010) criticized Kohlberg's approach to studying morality because it did not take into account if participants could differentiate between the different domains. He states that answers were not analyzed for this possibility. In Tusiel's opinion the better way to analyze children's and adult's thinking over these issues is through examining if they can discriminate the varying components (of the issue) and how they coordinate these components when making decisions.

Some methods that do this are:

  • Observing children interacting with other children. Attention is paid to how children interact and communicate during events involving moral transgressions and events involving transgressions of social conventions (i.e. Turiel, 2008a).

  • Researchers interview children about transgressions and social interactions and examine these narratives for themes (i.e. Wainryb, Brehl, & Matwin, 2005).

Is it always morally wrong to lie?

One example Tusiel uses to demonstrate these methods are studies on honesty. First of all, honesty seems to be a more morally straightforward issue than the Heinz dilemma. Or is it?‍‍is-your-teenager-lying.jpg‍‍

Studies with adolescents and adults have shown that judgements about deception vary systematically by the domain of issues involved as well as the types of relationships presented in the scenario. For example:

  • Two groups of adolescents, 12-‍13 year‍ olds and 16-17-year-olds were asked to make judgements about the deception of parents or peers with regard to moral, personal, and prudential activities. In the scenario a parent or peer insists an adolescent should stop doing a certain activity, but the adolescent continues to do it anyway and lies about it. In one scenario the adolescent is directed to engage in an act considered morally wrong (racial discrimination and fighting). In another scenario the adolescent is restricted in a personal choice (who to date, which club to join). The last scenario involves a prudential activity‍‍ (e.g., not riding a motorcycle, doing school work).

  • The results indicated that adolescents balance the issue of honesty, the type of activity, and the relationship (parent or peer). The majority of adolescents in each age group judged deception of parents acceptable in cases of the moral and personal decision. More specifically, adolescents weighed the harm of the moral action (i.e. not fighting) to out-weigh honesty. But in cases of prudential acts, adolescents accepted the legitimacy of a ‍‍parents'‍‍ authority and said it was wrong to lie in this case.

  • Results also showed that adolescents were less likely to endorse deception of their peers. In relationships of equality, honesty was given a greater priority. Adolescents also indicated that dishonesty is wrong in the abstract and also when used to cover up misdeeds or in self-serving situations.

Current Issues: Challenging Kohlberg

1. Re-examining and redefining the moral domain. Boundaries of moral domain have extended beyond notions of justice, to include ‍‍filial‍‍ piety, and care taking.
2. Social context and moral functioning. Greater focus on creating ‍‍contextually specific (e.g., does the moral decision take place at school? At home? At work?) ‍‍methods of evaluating moral judgment and addressing needs of diverse groups (e.g., antisocial youth). autobiography.jpg
3. Diverse research methods. Increased emphasis on the use of narrative and Incorporating the view of 'subject' as co-investigators of moral experience, using "assisted autobiography."
  • Assisted autobiographies: e.g., study the life histories of people committed to moral excellence.
4. The importance of morality in daily life.
5. Adolescent moral self.adolescent.jpg
6. Exemplary moral behavior - looking at the behavior of someone distinguished for personal moral commitment.
7. Moralistic development across the lifespan through open-ended interviews.

Kohlberg versus Gilligan: Women and Moral Development

Women scored lower on Kohlberg's stages and as a reaction ‍‍Carol Gilligan‍‍ (1982) challenged Kohlberg's theory, stating that the reason women scored lower was because he based his theory on a sample of men. Gilligan challenged Kohlberg's model of development, by focusing her research on the moral concerns of girls and women. A primary difference in her work was that she challenged Kohlberg's notion of equating 'healthy' moral development with aspects of separation, maturity, and autonomy. She argued that these concepts are 1) Ethnocentric and 2) male-centric. Gilligan (1985) came up with her own stages or "ethics of care". She believed women's morality was more relational (than men's). Gilligan's methods have since been criticized (she used scenarios asking whether women should have an abortion or not). Meanwhile, some feminists praised Gilligan's attempt to examine the male bias in Kohlberg's research, while others feared that Gilligan was simply adding to stereotypes of women. Below is an article by Gilligan explaining her argument and a book chapter that gives a critical view of her theory.


Issues of Diversity

This article reviewed empirical support for empirical support underlying Kohlberg's claim that his model of morality is universally applicable. Snarey examined studies that included participants from Alaska (Eskimos), Bahamas, Canada, England, Finland, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Guinea, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, U.S., Yucatan, and Zambia. Snarey made the following conclusions about Kohlberg's universal claim:
  • Kohlberg's interview process is reasonably fair when content is creatively adapted and participant is interviewed in native language.
  • The presence of Stage 4/5 or 5 was extremely rare in all populations.
  • ‍‍Nearly all samples from urban cultural groups or middle-class groups exhibited higher order reasoning, while all folk cultural groups failed to show post-conventional reasoning. ‍‍But, found in non-Western societies, just not all.
  • Suggests that collective solidarity is missing from main tenets of theory.

Diversity: In-groups and out-groups

  • ‍‍Individuals apply different sets of morals to people depending on one's membership in an in-group or out-group (Leach, Ellemers, & Barreto, 2007).
    • E.g., Jap‍‍anese individuals will often not argue or bring up negative emotions with in-group members to preserve social harmony within the group, but will raise arguments with out-group members because group harmony is not at stake (Kasai, 2009).
  • This has evolved to enhance group survival. nationalism.jpg
  • Current forms of in/out group morality distinction: nationalism, patriotism, ‍‍politics‍‍.