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Psychology of Altruism and Morality

The two competing theoretical frameworks that attempt to explain the development of morality are cognitive-behavioral and cognitive-developmental. The cognitive-behavioral approach is taken by Liebert, and the cognitive-developmental approach is taken by Kohlberg.

Both sides have strong arguments that support their own theories and try to tear apart the opposing theory.

The cognitive-developmental approach has been studied extensively by Lawrence Kohlberg. Through his studies using moral dilemmas, Kohlberg developed his six stages of moral development. In these stages, Kohlberg concentrates on the reasons why people act the way they do; not the way they think about their actions or what action they take, but the reasoning behind their actions.

The six stages that Kohlberg defines are grouped into three levels, with two levels at each stage. They are grouped as follows:

Level 1 - Preconventional / Pre Moral

*Stage 1: Punishment & Obedience - Actions that are punished are wrong. *Stage 2: Instrumental Relativist Orientation - focus is on the self.

How will my actions reward me?

Level 2 - Conventional

*Stage 3: People at stage three begin to value the respect of the opinion and values of other.
*Stage 4: Law and Order - Appreciation for rules, laws, and regulations of society.

Level 3 - Post Conventional

*Stage 5: Social Contrast Legalistic Orientation
*Stage 6: Universal Ethical Principle

These stages are important to Kohlberg’s four most general beliefs. One of Kohlberg’s first assertions is that people advance through these stages in an invariant sequence. Advancement through these stages occurs in order from 1 - 6, with no stages skipped, and there is no regression. Kohlberg’s second assertion is that people cannot comprehend reasoning more than one stage ahead of their current stage. Kohlberg also believes that people are attracted to higher stage reasoning because it is...
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