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What’s Your Stage?

  • Posted on March 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Lawrence Kohlberg researched cognitive moral development across fifty or so countries in an attempt to discern the different ways people think about ethical issues. Based on this research, Kohlberg created a six-stage model of human moral development:

  1. Stage 1: Obedience and punishments are the main determinants of behavior.
  2. Stage 2: Satisfying one’s own needs regardless of the cost are the main determinants of behavior.
  3. Stage 3: Gaining social approval are the main determinants of behavior.
  4. Stage 4: Following established rules and supporting established authority are the main determinants of behavior.
  5. Stage 5: Principled thinking that transcends rules, authority figures, punishment, rewards, and social approval to seek after the welfare of your society are the main determinants of behavior.
  6. Stage 6: Principled thinking that transcends rules, authority figures, punishment, rewards, and social approval to seek after the welfare of all people are the main determinants of behavior.

I wanted to know if there was a test to assess your cognitive moral development. I found one, but I found that most of their choices were inconsistent with my reasoning, even if they reflected a portion of the action I would take. For example, one scenario involved stealing or not stealing a life-saving medicine; using creative problem-solving to create an ethical alternative means of accessing the medicine wasn’t an option. If you want to take the test, you do so at your own risk. Personally, I don’t put much stock in it.