You are here

CHILDREN’S MORAL SENSITIVITY: AN EXAMINATION OF THE SUSPECTED LINK BETWEEN ALTRUISTIC PUNISHMENT AND MORAL JUDGMENTS

Download pdf | Full Screen View

Date Issued:
2019
Abstract/Description:
Developmental research on moral psychology has long been driven by the classic studies of Lawrence Kohlberg with an almost exclusive focus on reasoning. The adoption of an evolutionary perspective has opened moral psychology to investigations into the deep roots of morality. From this perspective, it is thought that group living (cooperation), evolved psychological mechanisms, disgust, emotion, and punishment make for the complex building blocks that is morality. Based on this notion, it is quite possible that morality is present early in life and driven by the forces of natural selection. Thus, moral development may be understood by taking a different approach, one that takes into account the tenants of evolution. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of third-party punishment on children’s moral sentiments using a common moral transgression (exclusion from a group). For this cross-sectional study, children in age groups 4-5, 7-8, and 12-13 years heard two short stories describing a perpetrator (matched in gender to the participant) who excludes a victim (also matched in gender to the participant). For each story, children were asked to imagine a different relationship to the victim: kin (i.e., brother or sister) or non-kin (i.e., friend/stranger). After each story, children were asked to rate the intensity of the moral transgression, choose a possible punishment for the perpetrator, identify an emotion associated with the transgression, and then offer a justification for the emotion. A total of 109 children were interviewed for the study. Results were mixed. Relationship (kin vs. non-kin) made a difference in some cases, while not in others. Overall, all children rated the treatment of the victim as wrong, deemed punishment as necessary, and reported neutral emotions. The children in the 12 to 13 age group were different on measures of wrongness and emotional responses. There is some evidence that relationship may influence moral sentiments, which is in line with an evolutionary hypothesis. Moral sentiments seem to be present early, and common moral transgressions are perceived as wrong early and consistently across age groups. This study provides some insight into the evolutionary roots of morality. Additional research is necessary to gain a greater understanding of other factors contributing to the evolutionary roots of morality.
Title: CHILDREN’S MORAL SENSITIVITY: AN EXAMINATION OF THE SUSPECTED LINK BETWEEN ALTRUISTIC PUNISHMENT AND MORAL JUDGMENTS.
26 views
6 downloads
Name(s): Dukes, Charles, author
Bjorklund, David F., Thesis advisor
Florida Atlantic University, Degree grantor
Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Department of Psychology
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Electronic Thesis Or Dissertation
Date Created: 2019
Date Issued: 2019
Publisher: Florida Atlantic University
Place of Publication: Boca Raton, Fla.
Physical Form: application/pdf
Extent: 101 p.
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Developmental research on moral psychology has long been driven by the classic studies of Lawrence Kohlberg with an almost exclusive focus on reasoning. The adoption of an evolutionary perspective has opened moral psychology to investigations into the deep roots of morality. From this perspective, it is thought that group living (cooperation), evolved psychological mechanisms, disgust, emotion, and punishment make for the complex building blocks that is morality. Based on this notion, it is quite possible that morality is present early in life and driven by the forces of natural selection. Thus, moral development may be understood by taking a different approach, one that takes into account the tenants of evolution. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of third-party punishment on children’s moral sentiments using a common moral transgression (exclusion from a group). For this cross-sectional study, children in age groups 4-5, 7-8, and 12-13 years heard two short stories describing a perpetrator (matched in gender to the participant) who excludes a victim (also matched in gender to the participant). For each story, children were asked to imagine a different relationship to the victim: kin (i.e., brother or sister) or non-kin (i.e., friend/stranger). After each story, children were asked to rate the intensity of the moral transgression, choose a possible punishment for the perpetrator, identify an emotion associated with the transgression, and then offer a justification for the emotion. A total of 109 children were interviewed for the study. Results were mixed. Relationship (kin vs. non-kin) made a difference in some cases, while not in others. Overall, all children rated the treatment of the victim as wrong, deemed punishment as necessary, and reported neutral emotions. The children in the 12 to 13 age group were different on measures of wrongness and emotional responses. There is some evidence that relationship may influence moral sentiments, which is in line with an evolutionary hypothesis. Moral sentiments seem to be present early, and common moral transgressions are perceived as wrong early and consistently across age groups. This study provides some insight into the evolutionary roots of morality. Additional research is necessary to gain a greater understanding of other factors contributing to the evolutionary roots of morality.
Identifier: FA00013300 (IID)
Degree granted: Dissertation (Ph.D.)--Florida Atlantic University, 2019.
Collection: FAU Electronic Theses and Dissertations Collection
Note(s): Includes bibliography.
Subject(s): Moral development
Ethics, Evolutionary
Moral judgment
Children
Punishment
Moral psychology of the emotions
Held by: Florida Atlantic University Libraries
Sublocation: Digital Library
Persistent Link to This Record: http://purl.flvc.org/fau/fd/FA00013300
Use and Reproduction: Copyright © is held by the author with permission granted to Florida Atlantic University to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Use and Reproduction: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
Host Institution: FAU
Is Part of Series: Florida Atlantic University Digital Library Collections.