AP Psychology : Moral Development

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Psychology

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Moral Development

Which one of the following children is displaying preconventional thought?

Possible Answers:

Mark refuses to obey a law that treats certain people as second-class citizens

Kevin decides not to skip class because he will get in trouble with the principal

Francine thinks that big corporations should be responsible for paying taxes, just as everyone else is

Amy disagrees with her school's policy on graduating early, but she would never publicly protest it without her school's permission

Natasha does not skip school because she worries about what her friends will say

Correct answer:

Kevin decides not to skip class because he will get in trouble with the principal

Explanation:

Lawrence Kohlberg developed three levels of morality to describe people: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional thought. Pre-conventional thought is the most elementary of the three levels, in which actions are thought to be good or bad based on the rewards or punishments that stem from said action. 

Example Question #2 : Moral Development

Who developed the theory that the concept of morality is established in three stages? 

Possible Answers:

B.F. Skinner 

Ivan Pavlov 

Lawrence Kohlberg

Erik Erikson

Jean Piaget 

Correct answer:

Lawrence Kohlberg

Explanation:

Lawrence Kohlberg was the theorist who developed the concept that morality comes in three stages: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional.

Example Question #3 : Moral Development

Cody is 9 years old. He hit his brother while they were playing a game and his brother started crying. His mom asked him why hitting is brother is wrong, and he told her that it's wrong because he knows that "people aren't supposed to hit other people."

Cody is most likely in which of Kohlberg's stages of moral development?

Possible Answers:

Concrete operational

Postconventional

Formal operational

Preconventional

Conventional

Correct answer:

Conventional

Explanation:

In the conventional stage of moral development, right vs. wrong is based upon societal conventions and expectations. Since Cody stated something that is a social convention, rather than a personal ethical belief, he is demonstrating features of the conventional stage of devlopment.

Example Question #4 : Moral Development

What is the third stage of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development?

Possible Answers:

Individuals are receptive to societal approval or disapproval of their behavior

Individuals reject any societal views of their behavior

Individuals begin to see their perspective as distinct from that of society's, and may or may not agree with cultural norms and ethics

Individuals are only concerned with actions that will directly benefit them

Correct answer:

Individuals are receptive to societal approval or disapproval of their behavior

Explanation:

At stage three of Kohlberg's theory, which usually begins in adolescence or adulthood, people become conscious of how the society at large views their behavior. Thus, they are not necessarily concerned with gaining a direct reward or avoiding punishments, but rather focus on cultivating behaviors like appreciation and good manners that will make them well-liked by society. This stage is defined by conformity to societal expectations of behavior.  

Example Question #5 : Moral Development

A child who responds to a moral dilemma with "You will get in trouble. Don't do it!" is most likely operating at what stage of Kolhberg's theory of moral development? 

Possible Answers:

Preconventional level 

Unconventional level 

Postconventional level 

Conventional level

Correct answer:

Preconventional level 

Explanation:

Moral reasoning at the preconventional level focuses on punishment, rewards, and authority. The child in this question is exhibiting this degree of moral consideration.

Moral reasoning at the conventional level focuses on social order, upholding the law, and maintaining positive relationships. 

Moral reasoning at the postconventional level focuses on principles and values beyond laws that ensure individual rights. 

There is no unconventional level of moral reasoning, as presented by Kohlberg. 

Example Question #6 : Moral Development

If Elliott doesn't litter because it's against his own core values to do so, what stage of Kohlberg's moral development does this reflect?

Possible Answers:

postconventional

postsocietal

preconventional

moral intuitionism

conventional

Correct answer:

postconventional

Explanation:

Kohlberg's three stages are preconventional (in which morality is determined by the consequences for the person), conventional (in which morality is determined by social rules), and postconventional (in which morality is determined by core values). Since Elliott is choosing to keep the Earth clean not because he will get a fine or because his friends will judge him, but because of his own moral compass, this is an example of the postconventional stage. 

Example Question #7 : Moral Development

Why did Lawrence Kohlberg present children with the Heinz dilemma?

Possible Answers:

To assess the children's pathological development

To assess the children's social development

To assess the children's need for mental health services

To assess the children's moral development

To assess the children's physical development

Correct answer:

To assess the children's moral development

Explanation:

Lawrence Kohlberg is arguably the most influential psychologist in the field of moral development, particularly in children. He posits that humans can fall into three different stages of morality: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional morality. He used paradigms like the Heinz dilemma to assess children's responses, and determine which level of morality they possess. 

Example Question #8 : Moral Development

According to Erikson, those in their late teens struggle with which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Integrity vs. despair 

Autonomy vs. shame and doubt 

Identity vs. role confusion 

Intimacy vs. isolation 

Generativity vs. stagnation 

Correct answer:

Identity vs. role confusion 

Explanation:

Also known as “identity crisis,” individuals in their late teens and early twenties struggle with discovering their identity. As these individuals begin venturing into the world, they struggle with who they are or want to be and their purpose in the world.

James Marcia proposed the Identity Status Theory based on Erikson’s stage of identity versus role confusion. His theory led to four different results: diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium, and achievement. Individuals drifting through life with no purpose or intention for exploration are in a state of diffusion. Individuals who have explored and discovered their purpose and identity are in a state of achievement. 

Example Question #9 : Moral Development

When did Piaget believe a person's Moral Relativism stage begins?

Possible Answers:

Around age ten

Around age five

Around age eighteen

Around age thirty

Around age two

Correct answer:

Around age ten

Explanation:

Piaget argued that children under the age of ten view the world in terms of Moral Realism, believing in fixed, universal rules and judging actions by their consequences, rather than the intent of the actor. After ten, he claimed, children learn that rules are socially created things that are adjusted as needed and begin to judge actions by the intent of their actors as they were done.

Example Question #10 : Moral Development

How did Kohlberg use the Heinz Dilemma in his study on moral development?

Possible Answers:

None of these answers is accurate

To see how many people would chose the right thing to do, which is to defy conventional wisdom in favor of universal ethical principles

To test people's emotional responses to the story

To see if people's mirror neurons were activated in listening to a story

To test the moral developmental stages of people in different age groups

Correct answer:

To test the moral developmental stages of people in different age groups

Explanation:

The Heinz Dilemma refers to a story used by Kohlberg in his study on moral development about a man who steals drugs to help his wife who is dying of cancer. By asking how people would react to this dilemma, Kohlberg developed his stages of moral development which correspond more or less to peoples' age groups.

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