Morality throughout the Life Span

Morality is “the ability to distinguish right from wrong, to act on this distinction and to experience pride when we do the right things and guilt or shame when we do not.” Both Piaget and Kohlberg[1] made significant contributions to this area of study. Developmental psychologists have divided the subject of morality into three main topics: affective element, cognitive element, and behavioral element. The affective element consists of the emotional response to actions that may be considered right or wrong. This is the emotional part of morality that covers the feeling of guilt as well as empathy. The cognitive element focuses on how people use social cognitive processes to determine what actions are right or wrong. For example, if an eight-year-old child was informed by an authoritative adult not to eat the cookies in the jar and then was left in the room alone with the cookies, what is going on in the child’s brain? The child may think “I really want that cookie, but it would be wrong to eat it and I will get into trouble.” Lastly, the behavioral element targets how people behave when they are being enticed to deceive or when they are assisting someone who needs help.

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. . . Morality throughout the Life Span . . .

Main article: Moral emotions

Moral affect is “emotion related to matters of right and wrong”. Such emotion includes shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride. Shame is correlated with the disapproval by one’s peers. Guilt is correlated with the disapproval of oneself. Embarrassment is feeling disgraced while in the public eye. Pride is a feeling generally brought about by positive opinion of oneself when admired by one’s peers [2]

Empathy is also tied in with moral affect and is an emotional unfolding that allows you to be able to understand how another person feels. If we see someone is crying, then we also feel sad. If someone has just accomplished a lifelong goal, we bask in his happiness. Empathy falls under the affective component of morality and is the main reasoning behind selflessness. According to theorist Martin Hoffman, empathy plays a key role in the progression of morality. Empathy causes people to be more prominent in prosocial behavior as discussed earlier. Without empathy, there would be no humanity.

Main article: Moral reasoning

Moral reasoning is the thinking process involved in deciding whether an act is right or wrong.[1] Feeds off the development of social cognition that helps us experience other people’s distress. These skills also allow us to go beyond our egocentrism to construct a concept of reciprocity and fairness. According to piaget and kholberg, Moral reasoning progresses through a constant sequence, a very fixed and universal order of stages, each of which contains a consistent way of thinking about moral issues that are all distinct from one another.

Jean Piaget’s view: Jean Piaget [3] was the first psychologist to suggest a theory of moral development. According to Piaget, development only emerges with action, and a person constructs and reconstructs his knowledge of the world as the result of new interactions with his environment. Piaget said that people pass through three different stages of moral reasoning: Premoral period, heteronomous morality, and Autonomous morality. The first stage, premoral, occurs during the preschool years: children show very little awareness or understanding of rules and cannot be considered moral beings. The next stage, heteronomous which is defined as under the rule of another, and it involves children ages 6 to 10 years old. The child will take rules more seriously, believing that they are handed down by authority figures and are sacred and never to be altered. No matter if the intentions were good or bad, any violator to these passed-down rules will be judged as wrongdoing. The last stage, Autonomous, appears at 10 to 11 years of age. Children begin to appreciate that rules are agreements between individuals.

Lawrence Kohlberg’s view: Influenced by Piaget’s work, Kohlberg created an influential cognitive development theory of moral development. Like Piaget, Kohlberg formulated that moral growth occurs in a very universal and consistent sequence of three moral levels, but for him the stages in the sequence are connected with one another, and grows out of the preceding stage. Kholberg’s view represents a more complex way of thinking about moral issues.[4]

. . . Morality throughout the Life Span . . .

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. . . Morality throughout the Life Span . . .