Piaget's Theory of Moral Development
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How did Piaget investigate morality through observation?
- He observed children of different ages playing marbles
- He asked them questions about the rules of the game
How did children of different ages perceive the game of marbles?
- <5: No rules
- 5-10: Fixed set of rules
- >10: Played with their own rules and understood that they could be adapted with mutual consent
What was the aim of Piaget's study?
To understand the thinking and reasoning of children about the rules of a game
What was the methodology of Piaget's study?
- Children aged 3-10 selected
- Boys played marbles and girls played hide and seek
- P's were given semi structured interviews
- Researchers watched the P's playing the games and joined in
- Researchers pretended to be ignorant to the rules and asked P's where the rules came from
- Researchers recorded the responses
What were the results of Piaget's study?
Children of different ages had different rules for the game
What can be concluded from Piaget's study?
Children of different ages have different forms of thinking
How can Piaget's study be evaluated?
- The structured interviews allowed Piaget to gain insight into the thinking of the children
- The explanation of children was relied upon, they might not have had the proper verbal skills to convey their thought processes
What did Piaget's moral comparisons entail?
- The child is presented with 2 stories
- In one story a child deliberately causes a small amount of damage
- In the other story a child accidentally causes a significant amount of damage
- The child is asked which character deserves more punishment and why
What did Piaget find through his use of moral comparisons?
- Younger children focussed on consequences
- Older children took the intent into account
What are the features of the Premoral stage?
- Occurs from 0-5
- The child cannot comprehend the concept of rules or morality and subsequently have no sense of morality
What are the features of the moral reasoning stage?
- Occurs from 5-6
- Children understand the concept of rules but see them as external and fixed
- Children obey rules mainly because they are there
- Wrongdoings are evaluated based on consequences rather than intention
What is heteronomous morality?
- The moral reasoning of the child is governed by external rules laid down by others
- Rules are permanent, unchangeable and require strict obedience
What is expiatory punishment?
- Involved in the moral realism stage
- The naughtier the behaviour, the greater the punishment
What is imminent justice?
- Involved in the moral realism stage
- If someone is bad they will suffer for it somehow
- E.g: A man steals sweets and is mauled by a bear
By what is moral understanding in the heteronomous phase limited?
- Adults have the power to insist that the children follow the rules without question
- The reasoning of a child could, instead be affected by their level of cognitive development such as egocentrism
What was the aim of Piaget's moral comparison study?
To understand the reasoning of children about morality
What methodology was employed during Piaget's moral comparison study?
- 2 stories are read to children of different ages
- The children were asked which character deserved to be punished the most
- The reasoning of the children was also questioned
What was the first story told to children by Piaget during his moral comparisons study
- John is called to dinner from his room
- As he enters the dining room he knocks a tray from a chair behind the door
- All 15 cups on the tray smash
- John had no way of knowing the tray was behind the door
What was the second story told to children by Piaget during his moral comparisons study?
- Henry tries to get some jam out of the cupboard when his mother is out
- He stands on a chair to try to reach the jam and knocks over a single cup which smashes on the floor
What were the results of Piaget's moral comparison study?
- Children from 5-10 could not distinguish between deliberate and unintentional acts, saying John should be punished more
- Older children could make judgements based on the person's motives and said Henry should be punished more
What can be concluded from Piaget's moral comparison study?
Children at different ages had different concepts of morality
What are the features of the moral relativism?
- Occurs from age 10 onwards
- Intensions are more important than consequences and should be used as the basis of behavioural judgement
- Children understand that others may differ in their moral views
- Rules can be broken in some circumstances
- Children no longer believe in immanent justice
- Reciprocal punishment is believed in
What is reciprocal punishment?
- The notion that the punishment should fit the crime
- E.g mending something that you broke
How can can Piaget's use of marbles be criticised?
- Many claim a game of marbles does not represent a child's entire perception of morality
- This means it is not a valid or full explanation of morality
What did Chandler et al find in 1973?
- If moral comparisons were displayed on video, children were much better at considering intentions
- This supports the notion that younger children only focussed on consequences in Piaget's comparison as the story was narrated and therefore it was much easier to see than intentions
What did Armsby find in 1971?
Children have some conception of intent but still preferred to judge on consequence because it was easier
How has Piaget's study been criticised due to moral universals?
- Universals may be culture specific
- Development of children in non western cultures (such as collectivist India) might be different than that of children investigated by Piaget
What criticisms have been made against Piaget by evolutionary psychologists?
- Piaget maintains that all morality comes from socialisation
- Evolutionary psychologists argue that morality is a cognitive adaptation produced by natural selection, and thus ultimately innate
- Evolutionary psychologists do, however support Piaget's assumption of moral universals
What did Feldman et al find in 1976?
- 4&5-8&9 year olds were studied
- Moral judgements were influenced by the order in which they were presented
- If the children were instead told first about the consequences and then about intention they made judgements based on intention
- This suggests that the moral judgements of children are affected by information processing
How can Piaget's use of moral comparisons be criticised?
- Systematic investigation of one variable at a time is not involved, with multiple variables coming into play in each story (such as different intentions and amounts of damage)
- The situation used in each story was also different
How can Piaget's choice of participants be criticised?
Children might lack the language skills to explain the complex processes on which they base their decisions
What did Smetana find in 1981?
- Children from 2-9 could tell the difference between behaviours that were wrong because of social conventions or wrong because of moral conventions
- Piaget's theory suggested that the two should be judged as equals
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