Ideas for Research on Moral Competence

We need empirical and experimental studies on the nature, relevance, development and fostering of moral competence. We need also replications studies, which use the same or a similar design as existing studies:

On the relevance of moral competence for social behavior: Are people with high moral competence* …

  1. … more likely to keep a promise? (Krebs & Rosenwald 1977)
  2. … less likely to cheat on tests or other situation? (Hartshorne et al 1928; see experiments reported by Kohlberg 1984)
  3. … less likely to transgress rules, laws? (Hemmerling 2014)
  4. … more likely to blow the whistle when they witness the breaking of rules by other (powerful) people? (Brabeck 1984; Roberts et al. 2002)
  5. … less likely to use violence for solving a conflict? (Bear 1987; Seitz 1991; Grundherr et al. 2016; Doehne_2018; Nowak 2017)
  6. … more likely to help other people in distress? Real help, not just intention to help (McNamee 1977; Gross 1994)
  7. … less likely to obey mindlessly unlawful or immoral commands by authorities? (Milgram-type experiment by Kohlberg 1984)
  8. … less submitting to conformity pressure; Ash-type experiment (Froming et al 1977; Mofakhami 2019)
  9. … more likely to defend the human rights? (Haan et al. 1968; Gross 1997)
  10. … more likely to welcome and support refugees?
  11. … less likely to use drugs when in difficult life-situations? (Lenz 2006)
  12. … less symptoms of dementia and ALS (Semler et al. 2018)
  13. … better in memorizing facts? (Heidbrink 2010)
  14. … better in understanding and applying facts?
  15. … better school grades in various fields (Lenz 2006)
  16. … better learning habits (Kohlberg 1958)
  17. … faster in solving moral dilemmas? (Mansbart 2001; Prehn 2013)
  18. … more tolerance of ambiguity and ego-strength (Lind 1978; Lind et al 2010)
  19. New: … buying choices: products which are more expensive or less beautiful, versus products which are cheaper, treated with chemicals, produced by children or underpaid workers or threatening our environment and climate.

* (a) Always anticipate competing explanations for the effects of moral competence, and try to choose a research design (sampling) which allows you to decide which actually caused the effect (see also Lind 2019a).

(b) Test my overall-hypothesis that a C-score of > 20.0 is a threshold for autonomously guided behavior (Lind 2019b): People with a higher moral competence behave considerably better even without external control. The analogous threshold on Kohlberg’s Stage scale would be the transition from Stage 2 to Stage 3.
Explanation: Some studies indicate that this hypothesis is valid and that we could reduce much violence, deceit and other misbehaviors (and their enormous costs) by offering people more opportunities for improving their moral competence. I also believe that we could have a true democracy, when our schools would provide 90 percent of the citizens with the opportunity to develop their moral competence to this level and beyond.


On the nature of moral competence and moral orientations:

  1. How are moral orientations and moral competence distributed in a certain population (as compared to others)? (Lind 2002)
  2. Do the six type of moral orientation (as defined by Kohlberg) form a hierarchy? Are neighboring types (e.g., type 2 and 3) higher correlated than more distand types? (simplex structure) (Lind 2002)
  3. How are both aspects correlated? (affective-cognitive parallelism) (Lind 2002; Ishida 2006)
  4. Can moral competence be simuated upward? (see experiments by Emler et al., 1983; Lind 2002; Haste, n.d., cited in Lind 2019b)
  5. Are people with high moral competence more undecided when being confronted with moral dilemmas? Are they less extreme?
  6. How is conscious knowledge of moral theories (ethics) related to unconscious moral competence?
  7. How prevalent is moral segmentation? What causes it? (Wakenhut 1982; Senger 2010; Bataglia et al. 2013)
  8. ???

On the development of moral competence**

  1. Do students show upward development during their education? Do certain education programs cause increase of moral competence? (Lind 2000; Herberich 1996; Schwegler 1999; Schillinger 2006; Glanzer 2007; Lupu 2009; Nowak & Lind 2009; Saeidi 2011; Pircher-Verdorfer 2016; Yang 2008)
  2. Do certain education programs cause stagnation or even regression of moral competence? (Huber 1993; Lind 2000; Slovácková 2001; Glasstetter 2005; Gommel 2006; Lind 2013; Rego et al 2011; Hegazi et al. 2013; Abbasi 2017; Agurto et al 2017; Feitosa 2012; Guzman et al. 2019; Kodwani 2009)
  3. Do certain conditions prevent educational programs from being effective? (e.g., very low moral competence, very high moral competence, dogmatism, dogmatic religiosity, certain ideologies, professional habitus) (Siegmund 1979; Bataglia et al. 2002; Akin 2018; Duriez 2006; Kietzig 2009; Lupu 2009; Saeidi 2011)
  4. Have culture, social class, or gender an impact on the development of moral competence — if level and quality of education is held constant?
  5. ???


On the efficacy of methods for fostering moral competence**

  1. Do level and quality of training of teachers have an impact on the efficacy of the KMDD?
  2. Which impact do the number of KMDD-sessions or the intensity of KMDD-sessions (e.g., number of sessions per year) have on their effect-size?
  3. Does average age level or level of education have an impact on the efficacy of the KMDD?
  4. Does diversity of various kinds (age, level of education, cultural background etc.) have an impact on the efficacy of the KMDD?
  5. Are there other methods which have a similar or even higher efficacy on fostering moral competence development?
  6. ???

**Always anticipate competing explanations for the causes of an increase, stagnation or regression of moral competence, and try to collect data from different institutions of education which allow you to decide what is actually causing the effect. For this purpose you may also use appropriate data produced by other studies! Advise: Be careful when generalizing your findings, but do not be too humble if your findings need attention (see also Lind 2002; Lind 2019a).