, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 321-323
Date: 05 Nov 2013

Attributions and moral judgments: Kohlberg’s stage theory as a taxonomy of moral attributions


Individuals who cheated or did not cheat on a test and observers who watched a test taker cheat or not cheat evaluated the causal importance of internal factors, external factors, and factors associated with each of the six stages of Kohlberg’s model of moral development as determinants of the moral or immoral action. The results indicated that cheating was explained more in terms of the lower stages of moral thought, whereas the higher stages were used to account for not cheating, but few actor-observer differences were obtained. Overall, support was found for an attributional model of moral judgments that incorporates Kohlberg’s stage model as a taxonomy of causes of moral and immoral actions, but the findings also suggest that Kohlberg’s assumption that the stages are content free may be invalid.

Thanks are extended to Greg Lane, Ray Pope, and Nadine Scott for their contributions and comments, and to Ray Pope, Barbara Myers, Lynne Olsho, and Tom Leahey, who, along with the first author, served as rating-scale judges.