Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Peterson, Candida

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Child development--Conduct of life; Moral education


The current investigation was based on a study by Chandler, Greenspan, and Barenboim (1973) who found that videotape presentations of moral dilemmas promoted judgments based on the intentions of the characters by children under seven-years-old. The present study questioned the hypothesis of Chandler et al. that videotape presentations created more balance between intention and consequence than was the case when dilemmas were presented verbally. Instead, it was hypothesized that videotape presentations allowed S̲s to identify with the characters in the dilemmas, and that this should enable them to judge the characters according to their intentions because they would in effect be judging themselves, and should thus be more aware of the characters’ intentions. In order to test the above hypothesis, 32 first-grade children were divided into two groups—the identification and the nonidentification group. Both groups witnessed two moral dilemmas; one was presented verbally and the other appeared on videotape. The identification group was given information that pointed out similarities between themselves and the characters in the dilemmas while the nonidentification group was given no special instructions. Following the presentation of each dilemma S̲s were asked to choose the naughtiest character and additionally to select an appropriate punishment for him. Punishment choice was included to determine if S̲s who judged intentionally would also choose mature punishments. Furthermore, mature punishment choice did not seem to require balancing intent and consequence. So, if mature punishment choice was promoted by videotape presentation, some factor other than balance would seem to have been at work in the Chandler et al. study. It was hypothesized that the identification group would judge more according to intentions and choose more reciprocal punishments in both verbal and videotape presentations than the nonidentification group. It was found that most children judged intentionally regardless of the condition to which they were assigned. Punishment choice tended to be more affected by the manipulated variables in the study. Identification, however, did not appear to have any effect on either judgment or choice of punishment. In addition, the results were analyzed according to those S̲s falling above and below the mean age; it was discovered that the older S̲s judged almost exclusively according to intentions while the younger S̲s judged about equally according to intentions and consequences. The relation between age and choice of punishment was not as definitive. With regard to consistency of response, older S̲s were significantly more maturely consistent than younger S̲s, i.e., they judged intentionally and chose a reciprocal punishment. Also, mature consistency occurred significantly more often under videotape conditions than under verbal. The results were interpreted as giving support to the notion that one of the most accurate indicators of a child's level of moral development is his age* On the other hand, the results were consistent with those of Chandler et al. in showing that videotape facilitated consistently mature responses. The failure of the manipulations to affect judgments of intentions by themselves was explained in terms of most S̲s being so prone toward judging by intentions already that further manipulations could have little or no effect. On the other hand, it was speculated that punishment choice tended to be somewhat more affected by the variables in this study because most S̲s were not yet at a stage where they chose reciprocal punishments regularly. They could therefore be manipulated to do so. The manipulation did not reach significance, in general, because many of the younger S̲s were not mature enough to choose reciprocal punishments regardless of manipulations. The failure of the identification manipulation was attributed to an inadequate method of inducement.


Includes bibliographical references.


vi, 67 pages




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