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This dissertation explores whether cultural patterns exist in the relationship between epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning. Three research questions guide my


1. What are similarities and differences in the relationships between five epistemological beliefs (i.e., certain knowledge, innate knowledge, quick learning, simple knowledge, and omniscient authority) and moral reasoning between Korean and U.S.

college students?

2. Will epistemological beliefs be related to moral reasoning over and above the effects of other critical variables (i.e., age, education, gender, syllogistic reasoning skill, grade point average, and academic major) in each respective group?

3. Which of five epistemological beliefs explains the greatest amount of sample variation in performance on the Defining Issues Test in each respective group?

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As I noted earlier, cross-cultural studies of the relationships between epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning appear nonexistent, and existing findings based on U.S. student samples probably are shaped by underlying cultural beliefs. The formal


reasoning that is a hallmark of the higher stages of most schemes has

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and may be less prevalent in others. Existing epistemological and moral theories posit a movement toward increased individualism of thought and freedom from the dictates of authority. It is possible that in a more collectivist culture in which the view of self has interindividual implications, personal epistemology and moral thinking could evolve toward an acceptance of consensus, not a reliance on independent thinking (Triandis, 1989; Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, & Lucca, 1988).

If the results of this study show strong relationships among epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning under two different cultural settings, we might suggest that Korean and American educators need to pay attention to universal aspects of development, instead of focusing on articulating cultural variation. Further, if the conclusion of the present study shows that considerable overlap exists in psychological functioning across cultures, it may provide evidence in support of Kohlberg's model of cognitive/moral development in the debate between cultural psychologists and Kohlbergians. In contrast, if this study shows that there are significant differences in the relationships in the Korean and American cultural settings, it may provide evidence in support of cultural psychologists (e.g., Shweder and Turiel) in the area of moral development.

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This literature review is divided into four sections. The first section describes the major theories of moral development and a critical review of cross-cultural research in the development of moral judgment. The second section describes an overview of current theories of epistemological development, categorized as developmental models, reflection models, and component models, and then, reviews cross-cultural studies of epistemological theories. The third section covers research on the relationship between epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning. The fourth and last section reviews related literature which may be helpful in suggesting some predictor variables to explain the significant variation in performance on the Defining Issues Test (DIT) (Rest, 1979).

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This section will begin with a review of moral development as articulated by Kohlberg and modified by Rest, followed by a critical review of cross-cultural studies using the DIT and a discussion of moral development measurement.

The Cognitive Developmental Perspective on Moral Development The major developmental perspectives underlying the present study derived from the theoretical writings of Lawrence Kohlberg (1969, 1971a, 1971b, 1973, 1975, 1976a, 1976b, 1981, 1984, 1987) and the modifications of this theory by James Rest (1973, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1990; Rest, Narvaez, Bebeau, & Thoma, 1999). Kohlberg (1975) asserted a sequential and hierarchical development and articulation of moral reasoning

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moral development rather than relative values, and reflect developmental aspects as opposed to just learning rules or cultural mores. Stages are “structured wholes” or organized systems of thought, and imply qualitatively different modes of thinking, invariant sequence, and hierarchical integrations (Rich & DeVittis, 1994) Kohlberg’s studies reinforce four main qualities of stage development (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987). The first is that stage development is invariant: one must progress through the stages in order and one cannot get to a higher stage without passing through the stage immediately preceding it. Kohlberg (1971b) held that moral development is growth and like all growth it takes place in a pre-determined sequence. Secondly, people cannot comprehend moral reasoning at a stage more than one stage beyond their own. In order to understand a higher stage of moral reasoning, a series of cognitive adjustments have to be made. In a sequential theory, these adjustments cannot be skipped. However, persons are cognitively attracted to reasoning one level beyond their own, a third general characteristic of Kohlberg’s theory. Since reasoning at one stage higher is intelligible and resolves more difficulties, it is attractive, which helps to create a natural progression.

Additionally, Kohlberg (1973) believed that individuals tend to prefer their highest stages of moral reasoning because a higher stage resolves more problems.

The last main quality of stage development is that movement through the stages is effected by the creation of cognitive disequilibrium. If a person’s cognitive framework cannot resolve a problem, the cognitive organism adjusts to a framework that does. If a person’s orientation is not disturbed, there is no reason to expect any development. Stage movement can occur because data from the environment does not easily fit into a

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cope with a moral problem.

The resulting state is, according to Kohlberg (1975), a state of “disequilibrium” which brings about a condition of conflicting claims for a person where each claim is “given his due” (Kohlberg, 1975, p. 671) according to some principle of justice that is recognized as fair. Upward movement represents hierarchical integrations, because thinking at a higher stage includes or understands lower stage thinking but the individual tends to prefer the highest available stage. Except in cases of extreme trauma, stage movement is always forward to the next higher stage, not backward into a lower stage.

In order to characterize the development of moral reasoning structurally, Kohlberg sought a single unifying construct that generates the major structural features of each stage. This is the concept of sociomoral perspective, which refers to the point of view the individual takes in defining both social facts and sociomoral values, or oughts (Kohlberg, 1976a; Colby & Kohlberg, 1987). Corresponding to the three major levels of moral judgment, Kohlberg postulated the three major levels of social perspective as


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From this point of view, Level 1 (preconventional) is a perspective from which rules and social expectations are something external to the self; in the Level 2 perspective

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especially those of authorities; and the Level 3 (postconventional) perspective differentiates the self from the rules and expectations of others and defines moral values in terms of self-chosen principles. Within each of the three moral levels, briefly described in Table 2.1, there are two stages. The second stage is a more advanced and organized form of the general perspective of each level.

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Rest (1979) has argued that the question of the relations among developmental sequences in the various domains should not even be taken seriously. His reasons derive from his rejection of the strong Piagetian stage model. Rest agrees with Kohlberg’s claim that qualitatively different forms of moral judgment can be identified and that development involves the increasing use of more advanced or sophisticated reasoning. He disagrees, however, with Kohlberg’s claim that development proceeds through a stepwise sequence of internally consistent stages. He holds instead that individuals simultaneously use reasoning of many types and that an adequate description of an individual’s moral judgment must include a quantitative account of the proportion of each type rather than a global designation for the person. He states that “people use various organizations of thinking, are somewhat inconsistent, and that the kind of logical organization they bring to a problem is considerably influenced by the particular content and properties of the problem” (Rest, 1979, p. 257).

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What will be attended to in the following are the significant issues emerging from some crucial cross-cultural reviews (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987; Edwards, 1987; Gielen, 1990, 1991; Snarey, 1985) of the empirical studies that address the issues related to universality versus uniqueness of moral development. For example, Colby and Kohlberg (1987) pointed out that evidence for the claim of a universally invariant sequence had been provided by cross-sectional studies in Kenya (Edwards, 1975), Honduras (Gorsuch & Barnes, 1973), the Bahamas (White, 1975, 1986), India (Parikh, 1980), and New Zealand (Moir, 1974). Nevertheless, cross-sectional studies can confirm universality indirectly and in a weak sense. To test an invariant sequence robustly requires longitudinal studies, a few of which have been done from a cross-cultural perspective (Lei, 1984, 1989, 1990; Nisan & Kohlberg, 1982; Snarey, Reimer, & Kohlberg, 1984;

Snarey, 1982; Walker, 1990; White, 1975; White, Bushnell, & Regnemer, 1978).

Among all those cross-cultural reviews, so far, Snarey's (1985) assessment of 45 empirical studies conducted in 27 countries remains the most comprehensive review of Kohlbergian research from a cross-cultural comparative perspective. For this reason it provides the backdrop against which the present study addresses the issue of relativity versus universality in moral judgment development. Snarey's conclusion can be summarized in the following statements: (a) The content of moral reasoning appears to be relative to sociocultural context; (b) on the other hand, the deep structure that underlies and operates on the content tends to be universal. Moreover, provided that the deep structure can be developmentally differentiated into stages, these stages and their developmental sequence are universal, too. Snarey further pointed out that only on the

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has consensus been reached among researchers so far as universality is concerned. It is still at issue whether principled or postconventional moral reasoning is also universal.

The future research of moral development should examine how cultural factors affect the development and functions of the universal structure, and how content and structure interact with each other.

With respect to the process of becoming moral in Korean culture, Moon (1994) and Park and Johnson (1984) showed that a comparison of the Korean data with previous American data points to basic cross-cultural similarities in terms of sequence of stages and rate of development. Especially, Moon (1986), through a review of twenty crosscultural studies on moral judgment, suggested that the sociocultural factors can speed up, slow down, or stop structural development, but they cannot reverse the developmental sequence or produce different kinds of stages.

These results were supported by a study by Kim (1998) using story variations (i.e., interview) and paired comparisons. In this study, Korean children gave weight to moral judgments about rights, justice, and welfare in evaluating the commands of authorities and did not judge acts in the moral domain to be contingent on authority directives. Acts like violating rights, selfishness in sharing, and threatening others’ welfare were considered wrong even if they were condoned by authorities. The results suggested that the ideological emphasis on adult authority and status by virtue of holding positions of authority was not evident in the judgments made by the Korean children.

Most recently, Hong (2001) suggested that young children in Korea have a sense of co-existence. The Korean young children in her study were encouraged and able to

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understood that people’s intentions and desires can be changed in different contexts. To observe the contextual cues sensitively in order to understand other people’s minds is regarded as an important ability. This ability is developed within a cultural context which views the self as a “connected,” “context-based,” and “interdependent” entity (Shweder, Goodnow, Hatano, LeVine, Markus, & Miller, P et al., 1998). This East Asian view of the self contrasts with the European American view idealizing the “separate,” “consistent,” and “independent” self (Shweder et al., 1998). As Kitayama and Markus claim, the East Asian cultural construct of the ideal self concerns interpersonal relationships and fitting into the group (cited in Hong, 2001). In short, the findings of Hong’s study revealed that psychosocial competencies of Korean children are embedded in cultural frameworks previously suggested by social scientists.

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