Moral Development and Reality explores the nature of morality, moral development, social behavior, and human connection. By comparing, contrasting, and going beyond the prominent theories mainly of Lawrence Kohlberg, Martin Hoffman, and Jonathan Haidt, the author addresses fundamental questions: What is morality, and how broad is the moral domain? Can we speak of moral development (Kohlberg, Hoffman), or is morality entirely relative to diverse cultures (Haidt)? What are the sources of moral motivation? What factors account for prosocial behavior? What are the typical social perspective-taking limitations of antisocial youths, and how can those limitations be remedied? Does moral development, including moments of moral inspiration, reflect a deeper reality? Exploring these questions elucidates the full range of moral development, from superficial perception to a deeper understanding and feeling. Included are: foundations of morality and moral motivation; biology, social intuitions, and culture; social perspective-taking and development; the stage construct and developmental delay; moral exemplars and moral identity; cognitive distortions, social skills deficiencies, and cognitive behavioral interventions or moral education; and, finally, near-death experiences and the underpinnings of our social and moral world.
Below is a chapter summary followed by study questions for each chapter.
Chapter 1. Introduction
This chapter introduces not only the social perspective-taking central to morality, but also our theory-based exploration of moral development, behavior, and reality. Perspective-taking relates to both “the right” (justice, reciprocity, equality; Kohlberg’s theory) and “the good” (welfare, beneficence, empathy; Hoffman’s theory) of morality. The right (condition of reversibility; cf. Pinker’s “interchangeability of perspectives”) provides an objective basis for morality not recognized in relativistic moral theories such as Haidt’s (Chapter 2). The good may provide the broad moral referent for differentiated intuitions (e.g., loyalty, authority, purity) specified by Haidt. Chapters 3 and 4 address “the right” or the cognitive strand of moral motivation and development, whereas Chapter 5 addresses “the good” or the affective strand. Subsequent chapters (6 through 10) relate the theories of moral development to social behavior (prosocial, antisocial) as well as to a deeper reality of human connection.
• In what sense can morality be objective? How does this conception differ from other views of morality?
• What are the foundations of the moral domain, according to Gibbs? What is their relationship? What should one do when the foundations conflict?
• Illustrate (in terms of Edward’s victimization) the two main strands or motivational “primacies” of moral development as “growing beyond the superficial.”
(p.258) • Antisocial behavior is evidenced even among those who may not be delayed in moral judgment development. What are three possible explanations in terms of the camp incident?
Chapter 2. Beyond Haidt’s New Synthesis
This chapter reviews—and moves beyond—Haidt’s new synthesis of trends in disciplines (such as social psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology) pertinent to morality and enculturation. Reviewed are his major themes: in-group solidarity, intuitive primacy, and social persuasion (rather than truth or objectivity as the function of moral reasoning). His work reminds us of our pretensions and the role of innately prepared, fast, preconscious intuitions in morality. He discusses the phylogenetic history and neurology of those intuitions and their refinement through culture. We are also reminded of the values of phylogenetic humility, scientific description, and cultural diversity. In the final analysis, however, three serious limitations of Haidt’s theory—a negative skew or inadequacy in descriptive work; an unwarranted exclusion of the prescriptive implications of the higher reaches in morality; and moral relativism—overshadow its contributions.
• In what sense does Haidt present his new synthesis as a “dose of reality”? What are its three themes?
• How does Gibbs evaluate (valuable aspects, limitations of) Haidt’s theory? Why does Gibbs suggest a need to “move beyond” it?
Chapter 3. “The Right” and Moral Development: Fundamental Themes of Kohlberg’s Cognitive Developmental Approach
This chapter explicates cognitive developmental themes in moral development. The attention of young children is readily captured by or centered on that which is immediate and salient in their sociomoral and non-social worlds. Just as centrations and superficiality characterize early childhood moral judgment, “decentration” and depth can be said to characterize the moral competence constructed in the school years and beyond. We relate morality to logic (cf. Piaget); explain that the ideals of justice or moral reciprocity are constructed, not merely enculturated, socialized, or internalized; explicate the role of peer interaction and social perspective-taking opportunities in this moral constructive process across diverse cultures; argue that justice can be a moral motive in its own right; and ponder issues in the concept and assessment of “stages” in the development of moral judgment.
• What accounts for early child superficiality (including egocentric bias)? Illustrate in terms of social cognition.
• What, in Piagetian terms, accounts for the young child’s pre-conservation responses? How might pre-conservation responses relate to the “caprice” of early childhood?
(p.259) • How have experiments using the conservation task helped to distinguish construction from internalization?
• What is the “crucial difference” between pre-conservation and conservation responses?
• What conditions promote the likelihood that peer interaction will “work as a constructive process”??
• Are logical necessity and cognitive primacy discernible in social cognitive development and behavior? Explain.
• Is moral reciprocity a uniquely human phenomenon? What stage-related distinction is important in this connection? What role might “reflective abstraction” play?
• What difference does ideal moral reciprocity make in moral motivation? Does Hoffman specifically identify ideal reciprocity? How does ideal reciprocity help us evaluate norms of blood vengeance?
• How does moral judgment develop beyond Stage 3 in the Gibbs et al. view? Can Stage 3 represent sufficient moral judgment maturity? What social perspective-taking opportunities seem to be important for advanced development?
• Briefly describe immature and mature moral judgment stages in the Gibbs typology. How are they assessed by the Sociomoral Reflection Measure—Short Form (SRM-SF)? How must “stage sequence” be understood in moral development?
• Briefly describe processes of development in terms of Piagetian theory. What is “important to note”?
Chapter 4. Kohlberg’s Theory: A Critique and New View
Given the cognitive-developmental concern with superficiality-to-depth in moral judgment or understanding, Kohlberg was particularly concerned to discover and articulate an age trend and possible sequence of qualitative developmental advances or stages that may be universal. Our critique of Kohlberg’s theory notes that, although his specific stage typology was misguided, he almost single-handedly put cognitive moral development on the map of American psychology. He encouraged attention to the continued development of moral judgment beyond the childhood years. Finally, he speculated from case studies of mature moral thinkers in existential crisis that there may be a deeper reality (“cosmic perspective”), one that underlies profound moral perception and can support the moral life. Building from Kohlberg’s and others’ contributions, we propose in this chapter a new view of lifespan sociomoral development.
• In what sense were Kohlberg’s claims regarding age trends in moral judgment “bolder” than Piaget’s?
• How did the Deweyan influence “distort” moral judgment development in Kohlberg’s overhaul of Piaget’s moral judgment phases or stages? What was “lost” as a result? What “irony” was evident?
• Violations of invariant-sequence expectations were discovered in the course of Kohlberg’s longitudinal research. In Kohlberg’s stage revisions to restore (p.260) invariant sequence, what two new problems for Kohlberg’s stage typology were created? These problems both reflect what generic problem, according to Gibbs?
• Regarding adult moral development in Kohlberg’s theory, what is Gibbs’s critique?
• What is Gibbs’s “two-phase” view of lifespan moral judgment development? What is the role of formal operations in this view?
Chapter 5. “The Good” and Moral Development: Hoffman’s Theory
Social perspective-taking and development beyond the superficial also entail caring or feeling. Accordingly, we shift from the right to the good, from justice to empathy, from the primarily cognitive to the primarily affective strand of moral motivation and development. We draw heavily in this chapter on Hoffman’s theory, even as we also consider recent refinements, expansions, and issues (de Waal, Decety, Zahn-Waxler). Much more than did Haidt, Hoffman has focused our attention on the role of empathy in moral development. Thanks to cognitive development, language development, and moral socialization, empathy evolves from biologically based responses to surface cues to a more complex and veridical emotional responsiveness to the joys, sufferings, and life situations of others. Attributions and inferences influence whether empathy eventuates in prosocial behavior. Within moral socialization, Hoffman focuses on parental practices of discipline (especially, “inductions” that make salient the perspectives of others hurt by the child’s transgression). The chapter concludes by arguing for co-primacy (both empathy and justice) in moral motivation.
• What is the functional importance of the empathic predisposition for human society?
• Is empathy unique to the human species? In your answer, refer to modes of empathic arousal and the complexity of the “full-fledged” empathic predisposition.
• What is Hoffman’s conception of “fully mature” perspective-taking?
• What is the meaning of “growing beyond the superficial” in Hoffman’s (especially vis à vis Kohlberg’s) theory?
• Briefly describe Hoffman’s immature stages of empathic development (refer to the pertinent empathic arousal modes).
• What are Hoffman’s mature stages of empathic development (refer to the pertinent empathic arousal modes)?
• Is self-awareness crucial for advanced prosocial behavior? To what fundamental issue does this question pertain?
• What cognitive processes “complicate” the relationship between the empathic predisposition and social behavior? Can these processes undermine the empathy—prosocial behavior relationship? If so, give an illustration.
• What are two factors that limit empathy’s status as the “bedrock” of prosocial morality? How can these limitations be remedied?
(p.261) • Socialization (in particular, moral internalization) is crucial if the empathic predisposition is to eventuate in prosocial behavior. Regarding discipline and moral internalization, how does the parent give effective inductions?
• Regarding two empirical studies of Hoffman’s moral socialization theory, in what ways were the results supportive? What might parents’ expression of disappointment/higher expectations foster in the adolescent?
• What is the role of nurturance in moral socialization, according to Hoffman?
• What is Gibbs’s critique of Hoffman’s theory (pay particular attention to the issue of moral motivation)?
Chapter 6: Moral Development, Moral Identity, and Prosocial Behavior
This chapter focuses on some of the variables accounting for individual differences in the likelihood of prosocial behavior. “Prosocial behavior” can range from a particular intervention to a lifetime dedicated to just and good causes. Highly prosocial individuals (moral exemplars) tend to be morally mature and highly empathic but field-independent (Moral Type B, internal locus of control, high self-efficacy) persons who perceive morality as central to their sense of self (high moral identity). Moral identity can join the main primary (affective and cognitive) sources of moral motivation. Finally, to take effective sustained action, even highly prosocial individuals need ego strength, defined in terms of affect-regulating goal attainment skills. Distinguishing features of genuine (versus spurious) moral exemplars are considered at the end of the chapter.
• Briefly depict the issue regarding the motivation of prosocial behavior in terms of the presented case study of a rescue. How has Hoffman’s position on moral motivation differed from that of Gibbs?
• What variables help account for individual differences in the likelihood of prosocial behavior? What factors are involved in clear or accurate moral perception?
• How may the self and morality relate in human development?
• What are strengths and weaknesses of information-processing models of social behavior? Can such models account for quick behavioral responses?
• How is “ego strength” defined, and how does it relate to honesty and prosocial behavior?
• What three points regarding prosocial behavior are highlighted by considering a spurious “moral exemplar”?
Chapter 7: Understanding Antisocial Behavior
The referent for social behavior shifts in this chapter to antisocial behavior and how to account for it. Most offenders, from petty pranksters to ideological terrorists, fail (except for self-serving purposes) to take the perspectives of their victims. Social perspective-taking limitations pervade the “three Ds” of antisocial (p.262) youth: moral developmental delay, self-serving cognitive distortions, and social skills deficiencies. The latter two variables are needed to supplement Kohlberg’s and Hoffman’s emphasis on developmental delay if we are to adequately account for antisocial behavior. The chapter concludes with the powerful illustrative case of Timothy McVeigh. This case makes particularly clear how cognitive distortions can insulate a self-centered worldview (itself a primary distortion, linked to feeling superior or inadequately respected); that is, can preempt or neutralize social perspective-taking, moral understanding, and veridical empathy.
• Briefly describe the limitation of moral judgment developmental delay among antisocial youths.
• Regarding the limitation of self-serving cognitive distortions among antisocial youths, what are the four categories of distortion? What is the relationship of the primary distortion to proactive versus reactive aggression? What is the function of the other three categories?
• Briefly describe the limitation of social skill deficiencies among antisocial youths.
• How does the case study (Timothy McVeigh) illustrate the three main limitations of antisocial youths? How does the case relate to Kohlberg’s and Hoffman’s theories?
Chapter 8: Treating Antisocial Behavior
If multiple limitations contribute to antisocial behavior, then an adequate treatment program must be correspondingly multi-componential. Adequate social perspective-taking—in particular, perspective-taking that is profound or mature; rationalization-busting, adequately informed, and hence discerning; reciprocally ideal and balanced; and socially expansive or inclusive—should pervade the components of any effective treatment program. This chapter focuses on a multi-component treatment program that incorporates a wide variety of social perspective-taking opportunities pertaining to the remediation of moral developmental delay, social cognitive distortions, and social skill deficiencies; namely, the EQUIP program. High-fidelity implementations of EQUIP can stimulate a positive synergy through EQUIP’s integration of mutual help and cognitive behavioral approaches. Chapter 8 concludes with a discussion of adaptations and outcome evaluations, and illustrates social perspective-taking treatments available for severe offenders.
• What is the aim of the mutual-help (in particular, Positive Peer Culture) approach to treating antisocial behavior? How does it provide social perspective-taking opportunities? Why has it had only mixed success, according to Gibbs?
• How does EQUIP integrate the mutual-help with the cognitive-behavioral approach to treating antisocial behavior? What does each approach contribute to the other?
• What opportunities are entailed in the EQUIP curriculum? Illustrate how its three components are designed to remedy, respectively, the three main limitations of antisocial youth.
(p.263) • Briefly describe some adaptations of the EQUIP program. Under what conditions is the program effective?
• Illustrate social perspective-taking for the severe offender.
Chapter 9. Beyond the Theories: A Deeper Reality?
This chapter goes beyond Kohlberg’s, Hoffman’s, and Haidt’s theories to consider the question of a deeper reality. As noted, Kohlberg argued that existential thinkers in their soul-searching sometimes come to see their earthly moral life from an inspiring “cosmic perspective.” Perhaps such a reality can be glimpsed not only through existential crises but also through physically life-threatening ones. Accordingly, we study in this chapter cases of persons who have had a so-called near-death experience, or a set of “profound psychological events with transcendental and mystical elements, typically occurring to individuals close to death or in situations of intense physical or emotional danger” (Greyson). A review of the literature—especially, recent medical research literature—suggests that the experience entails a transcendent significance congruent with Kohlberg’s cosmic perspective. In this light, “growing beyond the superficial” and “taking the perspectives of others” take on radical new meaning.
• How does the chapter go “beyond” Kohlberg with respect to moral development and reality?
• Briefly describe the near-death experience, its three types, and whether it pertains to a deeper reality. What does Gibbs conclude, in terms of what five ontologically relevant questions?
• What feature or features of the near-death experience might be especially important for moral transformation? What moral issue is often raised by one of the experience’s typical after-effects?
Chapter 10. Conclusion
The final chapter concludes our use of Kohlberg’s, Hoffman’s, and Haidt’s theories to ponder the moral domain and explore growth beyond the superficial in morality. We recap our critique of Haidt’s theory. We culminate our argument for a co-primacy in moral motivation by relating Kohlberg’s and Hoffman’s theories to motivationally and qualitatively distinct categories of knowledge (logico-mathematical, empirical). We relate logical-moral ideals to an analysis of adaptation and evolution (Piaget, Singer) that is less reductionist than the pragmatic version offered by Haidt and others. Completing this concluding chapter are some final reflections on moral development, perception, and behavior vis-à-vis a deeper reality of human connection.
• How do Hoffman’s and Kohlberg’s theories differ with respect to the main sources of moral motivation? Describe the respective categories of knowledge to (p.264) which the theories refer. How does this epistemological difference relate to the issue of moral motivation?
• Are Kohlberg’s and Hoffman’s theories integrable? What is Gibbs’s view?
• Regarding moral perception and the question of a deeper reality, what paradox seems to be involved?