Reframing Psychological Models of Moral Development

Dennis L. Krebs

in The Origins of Morality

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897261 | DOI:
Reframing Psychological Models of Moral Development

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This chapter explains how psychological accounts of the acquisition of morality can be reframed within an evolutionary framework in ways that integrate their insights and redress their limitations. Social learning and moral reasoning are processes that evolved to help early humans survive and reproduce. Members of families who experience confluences and conflicts of interest engage in strategic social interactions to advance their interests. Evolutionary theory (especially the branch called life history theory) leads us to expect people to possess domain-specific structures of moral reasoning. People acquire increasingly sophisticated structures of moral reasoning as they develop because they need these mechanisms to solve the increasingly complex and embedded social problems they experience as they mature. The reason that people retain early structures of moral reasoning after they acquire more sophisticated ones is because adults continue to experience the kinds of adaptive problems that early structures evolved to solve.

Keywords: cognitive-developmental; social learning; family; strategic interaction; conflicts of interest; life history theory; structures of moral reasoning; domain-specific

Chapter.  7624 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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