Saturday, September 28, 2019

Moral reasoning using a new version of the Heinz story Essay

Abstract The current informal case study used Kohlberg’s paradigm of assessing moral reasoning based on responses to a moral dilemma. A nine-year-old girl’s stage, relative to the expectations of Piaget (1932/1965) and Kohlberg (1984), was assessed. A new version of Kohlberg’s Heinz story was used so that, unlike Heinz and the druggist, two characters were in the same situation. The situation was more realistic than in the Heinz dilemma, and the characters were more similar to the child being assessed. The child’s responses were more morally advanced than either Piaget or Kohlberg would have expected. Moral Reasoning Using a New Version of the Heinz Story Both Piaget (1932/1965) and Kohlberg (1984) conceptualized the development of moral reasoning as hierarchical in the sense that children progress from using one form of reasoning to another. While this view has been challenged by theories and evidence that children use different forms of reasoning simultaneously (reviewed in Killen, 2007), in the current report Kohlberg’s paradigm (1984) of using responses to a moral dilemma to assess a child’s stage of moral development was used. A nine-year-girl, â€Å"Anna† (fictitious name), read a scenario about a moral dilemma (Appendix A). She would have been expected to be in Piaget’s â€Å"heteronomous† stage, a broad stage where moral reasoning is directed by rules – from parents, the law, religion, etc. This stage preceded â€Å"autonomous† reasoning, where children understand there are morally correct reasons for breaking rules. Kohlberg broke moral development down into three levels, with two stages in each: preconventional (based on consequences and then on personal gain), conventional (based on approval and then on law), and postconventional (based on preserving relationships within society and then on abstract justice). Kohlberg dropped Stage 6 because virtually no-one fit into it (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987). Anna would be predicted to be at the conventional level, either stage 3 (approval) or 4 (law). Appendix A, a new version of Kohlberg’s Heinz dilemma (1984), was motivated by the original version seeming slanted in the direction of agreeing with Heinz (e.g. , the greedy druggist saying, â€Å"†¦ I discovered the drug, and I’m going to make money from it†), seeming unbelievable to current generations (e. g. , a small-town druggist inventing a cure), and not particularly relevant to children (using adult men, Heinz and the druggist). Summarizing, Anna first said she wasn’t sure whether Kathy was right or wrong. She said she could understand how much the girl loved and cared about her own mother, but the other girl also loved and cared about her mother. She said she couldn’t think of any reason why one girl was entitled to the medicine any more than the other, that Kathy knew nothing about the other girl and her mother, so she had to conclude that Kathy was wrong. But then she added, â€Å"but if I were in her place, I’d probably steal the drug even though it would be wrong. † Regarding Piaget’s stage of â€Å"heteronomous† reasoning, Anna said nothing about using the kinds of rules Piaget described (1932/1964). Instead she compared the situations of both girls, basing her conclusion on the equality of their situations. Since it would seem reasonable to conclude she knew that stealing was against the law, she instead used what seemed to be an abstract rule of fairness, which would seem to indicate she was using â€Å"autonomous† reasoning (Piaget, 1932/1965). Similarly, she said nothing indicating concern for approval or for laws, as a child at Kohlberg’s stages 3 and 4 would. She spoke not only of one girl’s personal relationship with her mother, but the relationship the girl knew existed between those she didn’t know, suggesting she valued human relationships in the abstract. Thus her responses were indicative of stage 5 reasoning (Kohlberg, 1984). They were more advanced than either Piaget or Kohlberg would have expected. Most interesting, Anna’s last statement suggested she had an intuitive understanding of research findings that moral reasoning ability is not a strong predictor of behavior (Blasi, 1980) or that she sensed but wasn’t yet at a stage where she could express a morally correct reason for stealing the drug (society’s need for strong within-family bonds, strong attachment between mothers and children, etc.). Had Anna read the original Heinz dilemma, based on the obviously greedy druggist and caring, hard-working Heinz, she might have responded with a morally advanced reason supporting stealing the drug. References Blasi, A. (1980). Bridging moral cognition and action: A critical review of the literature. Psychological Review, 88, 1-45. Colby, A. , & Kohlberg, L. (1987). The measurement of moral judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Killen, M. Children’s social and moral reasoning about exclusion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 32-36. Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays on moral development. San Fransisco: Harper & Row. Piaget, J. (1032/1965). The moral judgment of the child. New York: Free Press. Appendix A Moral Dilemma A teenaged girl, Kathy, and her widowed mother lived alone. Kathy’s mother was dying from a rare illness that could be cured by taking a very recently developed drug. The drug was so new that there only was enough for one patient, and the drug company was willing to provide it to someone in need. Kathy went to the drug company at the same time as another girl. The other girl said she needed the drug because her mother was dying. Both girls were waiting to speak with a representative from the drug company. While the other girl was in the restroom, Kathy noticed the door to the representative’s office was open, the room was empty, and she saw the drug. She hesitated but then stole the drug. Should she have done that?

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