The paper 'The Development of Modes of Thinking and Choices' is a wonderful example of a Business Case Study. Kohlberg’ s theory of cognitive moral development is taken seriously in business concerning ethical decision making. Lawrence Kohlberg used the storytelling technique to tell stories concerning moral dilemmas and in each case offered a choice to be made such as between authority rights and an individual being treated unfairly. The theory states that ethical behavior, moral reasoning has several developmental stages which respond to moral dilemmas better than its predecessor. Moral development according to Lawrence is concerned with justice and continues all through an individual’ s life.
These stages are classified into three levels, conventional morality, pre-conventional morality, and post-conventional morality. Lawrence Kohlberg’ s theory was interested in the way people justified their actions when placed in the same moral dilemmas and analyzed the kind of moral reasoning applied rather than the conclusion. Critiques of the theory argue that the theory emphasizes justice and excludes the other moral values, for example, caring. Kohlberg’ s theory is about the way individuals justify different behaviors, but his stages are not used as a method of ranking people’ s responses.
There is a relation between a person’ s behavior and how they score on Kohlberg’ s scale. Moral behavior is responsible, predictable, and consistent from people at higher levels. The pre-conventional morality level states that people do not have a personal morality code, and their moral code is shaped by adult standards and the consequences of breaking the rules. This level of moral reasoning is typical in most children though a few adults exhibit this thinking level (Piaget 1932). Thinking at this level judges an action’ s morality by its consequences.
The pre-conventional level is made up of the first and second moral development stages which are concerned with an individual in an egocentric manner. Stage one involves punishment orientation and obedience. A child or an individual behaves well so as to avoid punishment and in case a person gets punished, and then they have done something wrong. In an organization, people focus on the consequences of their actions, and action is judged as morally wrong if a perpetrator is given a punishment. The harsher the punishment is, the worse the act is perceived to be.
This perception gives rise to the conclusion that innocent people are guilty according to their suffering. People, therefore, apply obedience so as to avoid punishment. Stage two of the pre-conventional level involves exchange and individualism. It is self-interest is driven. The right behavior is defined by what an individual assumes to be their best interest and understood in a way that doe does not consider someone’ s relationship or reputation to different groups of people. During this stage, children realize that different people view issues differently.
Reasoning in stage two shows little interest in other’ s needs up to a point where it the owner’ s self-interest. Decisions are therefore made by ‘ what is in it for me? ’ The second level is the conventional morality level. At this level, people begin to internalize the standards of adult role models. Authority is internalized and not questioned while reasoning is based on the group norms to which the person belongs. Stage three consists of healthy interpersonal relationships where an individual behaves well so as to be considered as the right person by other people.
Judgment is related to approval by other people. Good intentions are as determined by a social consensus. People are receptive to disapproval or approval from others which reflects the views of society. The reasoning at this stage judges the morality of action through analyzing the consequences of an individual’ s relationships which include gratitude and respect. The intentions of an actor play a significant role in reasoning at this stage.
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Kohlberg, L. (1958). The Development of Modes of Thinking and Choices in Years 10 to 16. Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Chicago.
Kohlberg, L. (1984). The Psychology of Moral Development: The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages (Essays on Moral Development, Volume 2). Harper & Row
Piaget, J. (1932). The moral judgment of the child. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.
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