Values and Socio-Cultural Practices: Pathways to Moral Development

Angela Uchoa Branco

in The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396430
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Values and Socio-Cultural Practices: Pathways to Moral Development

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The major claim I make in this chapter is that psychology must overcome the traditional tendency of considering the topic of moral development as an almost exclusive domain of cognitive-oriented constructivists. When we consult the literature about subjects concerning moral development, we easily find a vast amount of references that draw on constructivist assumptions, where Piaget's and Kohlberg's ideas still prevail. However, some authors are already pursuing explanations for moral development elsewhere, namely, taking a different, less reductionist, epistemological scientific approach. This alternative approach relies on a cultural and systemic paradigm that makes it possible to take into account the complexities of human development. As I analyze the issue from a cultural psychological perspective, I first refer to the conceptual origins of the constructs pertaining to the area, their roots spreading from philosophy and sociology. Then I highlight some of the main contributions of a few key philosophers, social scientists, and psychologists to the theme, however far from presenting an actual review of their interesting ideas. Last, but not least, I present to the reader my own contemporary elaborations on the topic, drawing on the resourceful contributions of theorists such as Shweder, Rogoff, Tappan, and Valsiner to come up with a perspective that I like to designate as a socio-cultural constructivist approach to moral development. From such perspective, culture, affect, cognition, and motivation (values) all come to the forefront of the analytic picture in order to investigate the ontogenesis and the cultural co-construction of moral development. The cognitive bias is therefore overcome, and the intertwined quality of affect plus cognition now plays a fundamental role in the emergence of specific moral motivations found in social practices and individuals’ actions.

Keywords: moral development; values; moral motivation; cultural psychology; morality; ethics

Article.  13144 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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