EFFECT OF INTENTION, OUTCOME, AND ABILITY ON MORAL JUDGMENT USING MULTIDIMENSIONAL SCALING

MICHAEL DENNIS O'SULLIVAN, Fordham University

Abstract

The purpose of this study was (a)to determine whether intention, outcome, and ability had an effect on the formation of the moral judgments of children, ages 7 to 18, and (b)to determine whether these variables were developmental factors in making moral evaluations. Intention was defined as purposeful, motivational activity, outcome as the consequences of the action, and ability as the capacity to do an action.^ Many research studies in cognitive moral judgment development have consistently confirmed the early Piagetian observation that growth in moral evaluation is an age-related developmental process in which the consequences of the action are displaced abruptly by intention at about age 11 as the principal dimension in forming moral judgments. Recent research studies have indicated that intention is not a developmental factor and is used by all children in their moral evaluations. Research also showed that the disuse of outcome is gradual and progressive. The use of ability in moral evaluation has received little research documentation.^ The present study proposed to combine intention, outcome, and ability information as independent variables in a 2 x 2 x 2 balanced design with the independent variable of age to ascertain the dimensional structure of moral judgments in situations involving all combinations of intention, outcome, and ability. An eight item instrument that detailed and systematically varied the positive and negative aspects of the three variables was presented for judgment to 256 individuals in four age groups ranging in age from 7 to 18 years. The subject responses took the form of a moral judgment which indicated varying degrees of reward and punishment.^ Analysis by Thurstone's law of comparative judgment revealed no clear evidence of a single dimension underlying the subjects' moral judgments. A more sophisticated analysis by multidimensional scaling generated scale values and spatial representations in one, two, and three dimensions from the proximity and correlational values. The two dimensional correlational configuration proved to be the most interpretable.^ It was concluded that each of the four age groups showed a clear intentional dimension, which indicated that use of intention was an element in forming moral judgments for all children in this study, and was not a developmental process. The study also supported the view that ability information is an important constituent in the moral judgments of children, ages 7 to 18. Use of outcome in the moral judgments of these children showed no discernible pattern in the configurations generated by multidimensional scaling analysis.^ It was also concluded that throughout the four age groupings, the correlations generated more consistent spatial configurations than the proximities in the multidimensional scaling analyses. Furthermore, this study showed that multidimensional scaling was a useful analytical instrument in moral evaluation research, and it was recommended that multidimensional scaling be employed in future studies of moral judgment and moral judgment development. ^

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

O'SULLIVAN, MICHAEL DENNIS, "EFFECT OF INTENTION, OUTCOME, AND ABILITY ON MORAL JUDGMENT USING MULTIDIMENSIONAL SCALING" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8119783.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8119783

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