Date of Award

1992

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Marion J. Merchant

Second Advisor

Lenore S. Brantley

Third Advisor

Robert Fadeley

Abstract

Problem. Personality, a construct representing the dynamic integration of the individual, remains complicated, both in theory and in research. The purpose of this study was to explore a conceptual paradigm of personality through the relationship between cognitive flexibility and moral reasoning. Researchers had not looked at the relationship between cognitive flexibility, as measured by the Stroop Color and Word Test, and moral reasoning, as measured by the Defining Issues Test (DIT). This study focused on the relationship between cognitive flexibility and moral reasoning. It looked for more than an understanding of the relationship, however, thus affording beginning research in the development of the proposed paradigm.

Method. The DIT and the Stroop Test were administered to freshman and sophomore college students. Chi-square and descriptive analyses of the data from 133 subjects were calculated.

Results. Four directional research hypotheses predicted a necessary-but-not-sufficient relationship between cognitive flexibility and moral reasoning. Two hypotheses used the P score on the DIT while the other two involved the D measure. The findings supported two out of the four hypotheses: one on the P scores (x2 = 3.27) and one on the D scores (x2 = 3.5) from the DIT. While the other two research hypotheses were not supported by the analyses, trends suggested by the data were studied by a number of t tests. These tests revealed significantly higher DIT means in the flexible group than the not flexible group in the third quartile D grouping (t = 1.092 with 43 degrees of freedom and p < .05) and in the upper quartile P grouping (t = 2.502 with 23 degrees of freedom and p < .01). It is believed that this study contributes direct and indirect support of a necessary-but-not-sufficient relationship between cognitive flexibility and moral reasoning. It may be said that cognitive flexibility is a prerequisite for higher moral development. It is not, however, the only component needed for such development. The relationship between cognitive flexibility and moral reasoning can be taken as evidence for an interaction between the subsystems and cognitive mosaics within the context of the proposed paradigm. In summary, this study provides beginning work on a personality paradigm and contributes both implications and applications of the findings.

Subject Area

Moral development, Personality assessment.

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