Measuring Triune Ethics Orientations

with Sam Hardy
  • Darcia Narvaez


According to triune ethics meta-theory (TEM), moral functioning is dynamic and shifting moment to moment. But moral functioning can also harden into dispositional tendencies. This chapter describes several studies that examine TEM dispositions empirically. In order to begin to measure distinctive ethical orientations that arise through developmental experience, we constructed a measure of three ethical orientations (protectionism, engagement, reflective imagination) that include one’s goals and the perceptions others have of the respondent. Factor analyses and results are described. Convergent and divergent validity and mediation were tested in three samples of college students and adults. As expected, the three orientations behaved distinctively in terms of big-five personality, moral emotions and intuitions, moral personality, worldview, and moral reasoning and were distinctively predicted by attachment variables and positive emotions.


Attachment Security Moral Identity Correlate Error Moral Intuition Ethical Orientation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aquino, K., & Reed, A., II. (2002). The self-importance of moral identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1423–1440.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, K. (2007). The great transformation. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3(3), 269–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 226–244.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bazerman, M. H., & Tenbrunsel, A. E. (2011). Blindspots: Why we fail to do what’s right and what to do about it. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University press.Google Scholar
  6. Brooks, J. (2011). Helping the less fortunate: The interaction between cultural and economic conservatism. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Notre Dame.Google Scholar
  7. Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349–354.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindsets. New York, NY: Random House.Google Scholar
  9. Eisenberg, N., & Eggum, N. D. (2008). Empathic responding: Sympathy and personal distress. In B. Sullivan, M. Snyder, & J. Sullivan (Eds.), Cooperation: The political psychology of effective human interaction (pp. 71–83). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  10. Fried, I. (1997). Syndrome E. The Lancet, 350, 1845–1847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Frimer, J. A., & Walker, L. J. (2009). Reconciling the self and morality: An empirical model of moral centrality development. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1669–1681. doi: 10.1037/a0017418.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Gibson, J. (1979). The ecological approach to perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  13. Goldberg, L. R., Johnson, J. A., Eber, H. W., Hogan, R., Ashton, M. C., Cloninger, C. R., et al. (2006). The international personality item pool and the future of public-domain personality measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 84–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Graham, J., & Haidt, J. (2012). Sacred values and evil adversaries: A moral foundations approach. In P. Shaver & M. Mikulincer (Eds.), The social psychology of morality: Exploring the causes of good and evil. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  15. Graham, J., Haidt, J., & Nosek, B. A. (2009). Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations. J Pers Soc Psychol, 96(5), 1029–1046. doi: 10.1037/a0015141.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Greenspan, S. I., & Shanker, S. I. (2004). The first idea. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.Google Scholar
  17. Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 339–375.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kochanska, G. (2002). Mutually responsive orientation between mothers and their young children: A context for the early development of conscience. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 191–195. doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.00198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Konrath, S. H., Chopik, W. J., Hsing, C. K., & O’Brien, E. (2014). Changes in adult attachment styles in American college students over time: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review (published online 12 April 2014). doi: 10.1177/1088868314530516 Google Scholar
  20. Lapsley, D. K., & Lasky, B. M. (2001). Prototypic moral character. Identity, 1, 345–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lapsley, D. K., & Narvaez, D. (2004a). A social-cognitive view of moral character. In D. K. Lapsley & D. Narvaez (Eds.), Moral development, self and identity (pp. 189–212). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Lapsley, D. K., & Narvaez, D. (Eds.). (2004b). Moral development, self and identity. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. McClelland, D. C., Koestner, R., & Weinberger, J. (1989). How do self-attributed and implicit motives differ? Psychological Review, 96(4), 690–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Meier, B. P., Robinson, M. D., & Wilkowski, B. M. (2006). Turning the other cheek: Agreeableness and the regulation of aggression-related primes. Psychological Science, 17, 136–142.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2005). Attachment security, compassion, and altruism. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 34–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Narvaez, D. (2008). Triune ethics: The neurobiological roots of our multiple moralities. New Ideas in Psychology, 26, 95–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Narvaez, D. (2013). Neurobiology and ethical orientations. In K. Heinrichs, F. Oser, & T. Lovat (Eds.), Handbook of moral motivation: Theories, models, applications (pp. 289–307). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  29. Narvaez, D., Brooks, J., & Mattan, B. (2011a, January). Triune ethics moral identities are shaped by attachment, personality factors and influence moral behavior. Annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, San Antonio.Google Scholar
  30. Narvaez, D., Brooks, J., & Mattan, B. (2011b, April). Attachment-related variables predict moral mindset and moral action. Society for Research in Child Development, Montreal.Google Scholar
  31. Perugini, M., & Leone, L. (2009). Implicit self-concept and moral action. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 747–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Stallworth, L. M., & Malle, B. F. (1994). Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(4), 741–763. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.67.4.741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. (2003). In the wake of 9/11: The psychology of terror. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rand, A. (1964). Virtue of selfishness. New York: Signet.Google Scholar
  35. Rest, J., Narvaez, D., Bebeau, M. J., & Thoma, S. J. (1999). Postconventional moral thinking: A neo-Kohlbergian approach. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  36. Rest, J., Narvaez, D., Thoma, S. J., & Bebeau, M. J. (1999). DIT2: Devising and testing a new instrument of moral judgment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(4), 644–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schlenker, B. R. (2008). Integrity and character: Implications of principled and expedient ethical ideologies. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 1078–1125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shao, R., Aquino, K., & Freeman, D. (2008). Beyond moral reasoning: A review of moral identity research and its implications for business ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 18(4), 513–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., & John, O. P. (2006). Positive emotion dispositions differentially associated with big five personality and attachment style. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(2), 61–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Skitka, L. J., & Morgan, G. S. (2009). The double-edged sword of a moral state of mind. In D. Narvaez & D. K. Lapsley (Eds.), Personality, identity, and character: Explorations in moral psychology (pp. 355–375). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., Carlson, E. A., & Collins, W. A. (2005). The development of the person: The Minnesota study of risk and adaptation from birth to adulthood. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  42. Stone, W. F., & Schaffner, P. E. (1988). The psychology of politics (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tomkins, S. S. (1965). Affect and the psychology of knowledge. In S. S. Tomkins & C. E. Izard (Eds.), Affect, cognition, and personality (pp. 72–97). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  44. Walker, L. J. (1999). The perceived personality of moral exemplars. Journal of Moral Education, 28, 145–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilson, T. (2002). Strangers to ourselves. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Darcia Narvaez
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

Personalised recommendations