Expectations of Obedience and the Development of Moral Reasoning

Margoni, Francesco (2017) Expectations of Obedience and the Development of Moral Reasoning. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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The current dissertation tackles two core aspects of moral development: the obedience to authority and the consideration of the agents’ intention in generating a moral judgment. With respect to obedience to authority, I reported that 21-month-olds are already able to distinguish between coercion by a bully (someone who prevails using physical force) and rule by a leader (someone who is spontaneously respected by subordinates), and expect subordinates to comply with the leader’s instructions, but not with the bully’s instructions. With respect to the development of intent-based judgment, I reported that between age 4 and 6 the verbal judgment of moral goodness undergoes a shift from relying on action outcomes to relying on agent’s intentions. I argue that this shift likely reflects ancillary changes occurring outside the moral domain, such as in theory of mind or executive functioning. I also reported that, later in life, a further shift occurs in moral judgment. Older adults’ judgments, compared to younger adults’ judgments, rely less on intention and more on outcomes. This intent-to-outcome shift in old age can be explained by an age-related decline in theory of mind abilities.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Psychological Sciences and Education
PhD Cycle:29
Subjects:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-PSI/04 PSICOLOGIA DELLO SVILUPPO E PSICOLOGIA DELL'EDUCAZIONE
Repository Staff approval on:10 Mar 2017 10:40

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