Kohtberg devised an assessment tool for determining the stage of moral development an individual has reached Individuals are presented with a moral dilemma. The reasoning they use to resolve the dilemma indicates how advanced their moral thinking is. For each stage, actual answers have been provided that demonstrate the kinds of reasoning involved. The statements in the left column describe, in general terms, the quality of moral reasoning that defines each stage. As you can see, there are no right or wrong answers: Each stage is value-free. A person's position in the stages is determined not by the choice of right or wrong answers according to some value system, but rather by the kind of moral reasoning used to make the choice.
According to Kohlberg, each stage is built on the previous stage. More advanced stages of moral thinking reorganize the earlier stages in a way that provides the person with new criteria and perspectives for making moral judgments. Kohlberg assumed that children begin at the first stage. As they interact with other people, they may progress through each stage, but they never skip any.
There is no assurance, however, that an individual will reach the most advanced stages. Kohlberg believed that many people never reach the sixth and final stage. In fact, most
people do not seem to develop much beyond stage 4 . The third and fourth stages are therefore called the conventional stages, since they represent the stages reached by most adults.
In Kohlberg's view, people advance to a higher stage of moral development by exposure to the moral reasoning of other people that is more advanced than their own. This social interaction places a person in a conflict that can be resolved only by accepting the more advanced stage of moral reasoning.
Psychologist David Rosenhan of Stanford University has used Kohlberg's assessment techniques to measure different individuals' stages of moral thinking. Afterward, he placed these individuals in the role of the teacher-subject . Even some subjects who scored at stage 6 when taking the moral-dilemma tests went all the way to 450 volts when shocking the learner, and they were unable to give a reason for doing so that would accord with the universal principles supposedly possessed by someone at the sixth stage of moral development. The subjects at stage 6 were, however, less likely to continue up to 450 volts than were those subjects at Kohlberg's stage 1 (Rosenhan, 1973)
Although Kohlberg's theory presents a well-organized depiction of how-moral development may occur, it has been strongly criticized.
Questions for discussion.
1) What determines a person’s conformity, obedience, or desire to help. What main points of view on this problem are mentioned in the text ?
2) What are morals?
3) What six stages in the development of morality did L. Kohlberg postulate?
4) What do more advanced stages of moral thinking do?
5) How do people advance to a higher stage of moral development?
Attitude – a belief and feeling that may predispose one to respond in a particular way to objects, people and events.
Attribution – a causal explanation for someone’s behavior, such as, an explanation in terms of the situation or the person’s disposition.
Conformity – adjusting one’s behavior or thinking to coincide with a group standard.
Fundamental attribution error – the tendency for observers, when analyzing another’s behavior to underestimate the impact of the situation to overestimate the impact of personal disposition.
Persuasion – a process of inducing a person to adopt a particular set of values, beliefs or attitude.
Role playing – the acting out or performing of a particular role. As a procedure, it has rather wide currency in psychotherapy, in education and even in industrial settings.
Suggestibility – the condition of being readily responsive to suggestions from others.
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