Ethics and Morality:
Theory, Development, Teaching, and Instruction Notes
Theory related ideas
Four Moral Actions:
- Act altruistically - act for the benefit of another at ones expense, act with emotional empathy, or act with reciprocity;
- Act for retribution act by imposing punishment that is believed to fit the crime appropriate and deserved;
- Act with an intent to rehabilitate;
- Act to remove by shun, ostracize or kill.
Reasoning for these actions can be related to a person's belief and whether they think whether the offender meant to do it or didn't mean to do it and will act with a desire to throw the book at them, for the former, or let them off easy for the good of the individual, or the good of society, for the latter. See also different ways to respond to a wrong doing.
Development of Ethical behavior, Character, Values, and Conscience
Acting ethically or with character, values, or conscience requires - social competence and moral action or inaction. Moral actions include:
- Restraint from doing harm, or anything inhibiting aggression or hurtful actions,
- Initiation of actions to help based on caring or an altruistic action, or
- Commitment to an agreement or compliance of ethical actions.
"Moral progress only becomes possible when we don't believe everything we immediately think." Joshua Greene.
Which is fostered by social competence and dependent on three variables:
- Moral cognition: internalized thoughts and values based on a person's cognitive development across stages of moral development (see Kohlberg moral development theory).
- Moral emotion: empathy and compassion that foster care and pro-social activities which can result in guilt, discomfort, shame, or disgust that follow a transgression and may stop harm.
- Moral self: personal view as a good person who cares for others by regulating oneself behavior to do right, ethical, care.
Research Studies, Findings, and Suggestions:
- One and two year olds will help comfort a crying or upset person.
- One and two year olds will share and when asked to hand out treats will do so equally.
- Stephanie Sloane, Renée Baillargeon and David Premack conducted an experiment where babies watched two giraffe puppets dance. After which toys were presented in different ways: one toy to each giraffe or both to one of them. Three-quarters of the babies gazed longer when one giraffe got both toys. The longer gaze being interpreted as the babies thinking something was wrong.
- In a second investigation. Sloane, et. al. Had 21 month old children watch two women play with toys and then asked to clean up. They then saw either: one women put the toys away, while the other kept playing, but both got a reward. Or... Both put the toys away and both got a reward. Similarly infants gazed longer when the worker and the slacker were rewarded equally.
- Sloane claims: we seem to be born with a general expectation of what is fair and it gets shaped differently depending on our culture and environment.
- Paul Bloom, Karen Wynn and Kiley Hamlin conducted an experiment where a yellow square would help a circle up a hill and a red triangle would push it down. Later the children were offered to play with the helper or hinderer on a tray, they overwhelmingly preferred the helper puppet to the hindering one.
- In the ultimatum game a person gets $20 to split with another person however they choose. One would think that economically whatever the other person gets would be better than nothing. However, that isn't how the other person acts. They will refuse the money unless it is at least between $6 - $8.
Summary of research
Having an instinct to act morally doesn't mean a person will make and choose ethical actions. A person has to develop an understanding of self, understanding that people have different points of views and intentions, that there are different choices that can be made that are moral and maybe more moral then their personal thoughts and actions, develop ability to think morally, refrain from impulsive behavior, care for others, and have positive self-esteem and self-efficacy to take moral actions.
- Brains interact with other brains to create responsibility.
- A person has to develop intentionality before reasoning about another person's actions.
- Four and five year olds are able to understand another person's point of view. In experiments children were in a room where there were two other persons. A red ball was put into a box and one of the persons left. While they were gone the other person moved the ball into another box. When young children were asked what the person that left would say when he or she returned about the ball's where abouts, the younger children would answer in the second box. Children between four and five were able to know that the person who left had a different point of view and would answer he or she will say the ball is in the initial box.
- People have a bias for their own family, nation, race, culture, and ethnicity.
- People tend to dehumanize an Out group - envy or think of them with disgust.
- People tend to have pride for their In group
Videos on Morality and
Research to support an inherent basis for morality
- Lesley Stahl - The Baby Lab Produced by Shari Finkelstein - Are we born with a moral core? The Baby Lab says 'yes'
- Another report from the Baby Lab by CNN - What does it take to overcome being bad or when do babies consider bad as tempting? Produced by Susan Chun
Teaching and Learning Resources
Characteristics of learning environments for moral and ethical development
Moral reasoning is constructed by interacting with others who are moral in caring and just environment that supports the development of caring, cooperation, morality, and the social skills, resolve, and self-discipline necessary to be a moral and just person.
Environment that provides:
- Time where teachers assume a non authoritarian relationship and encourage students to resolve issues themselves in a democratic manner.
- If punishment is imposed, then it is by reciprocity rather than expiation.
- Social interactions in classrooms where questioning, examination of issues from multiple perspectives are examined, students are allowed to ask questions and raise issues, spontaneous moral issues are valued, dealt with openly and not swept under the proverbial rug.
- Moral issues are discussed in a manner that causes cognitive conflict and disequilibration necessary for reasoning to proceed and more moral and ethical positions are attained.
- Students are provided with, encouraged, and participate in a meaningful and active way in the school governance, which is cooperative, and truly democratic so that responsibility and self-discipline are required, not optional.
- Students must be provide opportunities to construct their own learning experiences.
Dilemmas to initiate discussion on morality
- A run away trolley is speeding down a track where you can see it will hit a group of about twelve people if it takes the left fork or one person if it takes the right fork. If you don't change the switch it will hit the group, but if you throw the switch it will hit the one person. What do you do?
- You are on a bridge standing beside a very large person. Below you is a vehicle speeding toward a group of about twelve people. If you push the person off the bridge before the vehicle passes by under you the body is large enough to deflect the vehicle so as to miss the people. If the vehicle doesn't kill the person, the fall will. What do you do?
- A group of armed people are on a genocide rampage and you are with a group of about twenty people hiding. A baby is crying and will cause all of you to be found and executed. What do you do?
- Prisoner's dilemma or various spin offs to see how people cooperate or not.
- A person thinks they are serving sugar to a person, but unknowingly serves poison and kills them. Is she guilty? Should they be punished? If so how?
- Another person attempts to kill another person by serving them poison instead of sugar, but the person doesn't use it. Is this person guilty? Should they be punished? If so how?