Sources of Influence in Moral Thought: the new Moral Authority Scale

Journal of Moral Education 25 (4):421-439 (1996)
Abstract Current interest in theorising about moral judgement has been dominated by Kohlberg's (1969, 1971) cognitive developmental view. This paper will argue that Kohlberg's and Rest's purely ?formalistic? conceptualisations of moral judgement and associated measures may misrepresent the true nature of moral thought. Henry (1983a) and Trainer (1982) have identified certain logical inconsistencies in Kohlberg's reliance on the ?form? of moral judgements, arguing for a reconceptualisation in terms of the ?content? of moral judgement, a much neglected yet equally informative alternative. In light of this, the present study attempts to operationalise Henry's content distinction with respect to Kohlberg's stage approach. Psychometric properties of a new measure called the Moral Authority Scale (MAS) are reported. The MAS was administered twice to 93 late adolescents. Findings revealed that test?retest and split?half reliabilities of the MAS subscales were appropriately high. The convergent validity of the MAS with the Defining Issues Test (DIT) and discriminant validity confirmed some predictions. Moreover, the item?total correlational analysis suggests that the MAS has strong structural validity. In line with Henry's reformulation, the MAS acknowledges that people maintain a range of views representing different types of moral judgement. By measuring perceived sources of influence on moral reasoning, the MAS has the potential to help educators and researchers gain a better understanding of the role of social?interactional contexts for the learning of ?what or who is important? when making moral judgements
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